Now be of good cheer. This blog post is meant to be a light-hearted discussion of this matter. The bottom line is that the Church currently has NO rule on this matter and women are entirely free to wear a veil or a hat in Church or not.
I thought I’d blog on this since it came up in the comments yesterday and it occurred to me that it might provoke an interesting discussion. But again this is not meant to be a directive discussion about what should be done. Rather an informative discussion about the meaning of head coverings for women in the past and how such customs might be interpreted now. We are not in the realm of liturgical law here just preference and custom.
What I’d like to do is to try and understand the meaning and purpose of a custom that, up until rather recently was quite widespread in the Western Church.
With the more frequent celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass, the use of the veil is also becoming more common. But even at the Latin Masses I celebrate, women exhibit diversity in this matter. Some wear the longer veil (mantilla) others a short veil. Others wear hats. Still others wear no head covering at all.
History – the wearing of a veil or hat for women seems to have been a fairly consistent practice in the Church in the West until fairly recently. Practices in the Eastern and Orthodox Churches have varied. Protestant denominations also show a wide diversity in this matter. The 1917 Code of Canon Law in the Catholic Church mandated that women wear a veil or head covering. Prior to 1917 there was no universal Law but it was customary in most places for women to wear some sort of head covering. The 1983 Code of Canon Law made no mention of this requirement and by the 1980s most women, at least here in America, had ceased to wear veils or hats anyway. Currently there is no binding rule and the custom in most places is no head covering at all.
Scripture – In Biblical Times women generally wore veils in any public setting and this would include the Synagogue. The clearest New Testament reference to women veiling or covering their head is from St. Paul:
But I want you to know that Christ is the head of every man, and a husband the head of his wife, and God the head of Christ. Any man who prays or prophesies with his head covered brings shame upon his head. But any woman who prays or prophesies with her head unveiled brings shame upon her head, for it is one and the same thing as if she had had her head shaved. For if a woman does not have her head veiled, she may as well have her hair cut off. But if it is shameful for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, then she should wear a veil. A man, on the other hand, should not cover his head, because he is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man. For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; nor was man created for woman, but woman for man; for this reason a woman should have a sign of authority on her head, because of the angels. Woman is not independent of man or man of woman in the Lord. For just as woman came from man, so man is born of woman; but all things are from God. Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head unveiled? Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears his hair long it is a disgrace to him, whereas if a woman has long hair it is her glory, because long hair has been given (her) for a covering? But if anyone is inclined to be argumentative, we do not have such a custom, nor do the churches of God. (1 Cor 11:1-11)
This is clearly a complicated passage and has some unusual references. Paul seems to set forth four arguments as to why a woman should wear a veil.
1. Argument 1 – Paul clearly sees the veil a woman wears as a sign of her submission to her husband. He also seems to link it to modesty since his references to a woman’s hair cut short were references to the way prostitutes wore their hair and his reference to a shaved head was the punishment due an adultress. No matter how you look at it such arguments aren’t going to encourage a lot of women to wear a veil today. It is a true fact that the Scriptures consistently teach that a wife is to be submitted to her husband. I cannot and will not deny what God’s word says even though it is unpopular. However I will say that the same texts that tell a woman to be submitted tell the husband to have a great and abiding love for his wife. I have blogged on this “difficult” teaching on marriage elsewhere and would encourage you to read that blog post if you’re troubled or bothered by the submission texts. It is here: An Unpopular Teaching on Marriage. That said, it hardly seems that women would rush today to wear veils to emphasize their submission to their husband.
2. Argument 2 – Regarding the Angels– Paul also sees a reason for women to wear veils “because of the angels.” This is a difficult reference to understand. There are numerous explanations I have read over the years. One of the less convincing ones is that the angels are somehow distracted by a woman’s beauty. Now the clergy might be 🙂 but it just doesn’t seem likely to me that the angels would have this problem. I think the more convincing argument is that St. Paul has Isaiah in mind who wrote: I saw the Lord seated on a high and lofty throne, with the train of his garment filling the temple. Seraphim were stationed above; each of them had six wings: with two they veiled their faces, with two they veiled their feet, and with two they hovered aloft.(Is 6:2-3). Hence the idea seems to be that since the angels veil their faces (heads) it is fitting for women to do the same. But then the question, why not a man too? And here also Paul supplies an aswer that is “difficult” for modern ears: A man, on the other hand, should not cover his head, because he is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man. For man did not come from woman, but woman from man. In other words a man shares God’s glory immediately whereas a woman does as well but derivatively for she was formed from Adam’s wounded side. Alas this argument too will not likely cause a run on veil sales.
3. Argument 3 – The argument from “nature” – In effect Paul argues that since nature itself veils a woman with long hair and this is her glory that this also argues for her covering her head in Church. What is not clear is that, if nature has already provided this covering, why then should she cover her covering? I want to take up this notion of glory in my conclusion.
4. Argument 4- The Argument from Custom– This argument is pretty straight-forward: Paul says it is customary for a woman to cover her head when praying and, other things being equal, this custom should be followed. Paul goes on to assert that those who insist on doing differently are being “argumentative.” In effect he argues that for the sake of good order and to avoid controversy the custom should be followed. However, in calling it a custom, the text also seems to allow for a time like ours where the custom is different. Customs have stability but are not usually forever fixed. Hence, though some argue that wearing veils is a scriptural norm that women “must” follow today, the use of the word custom seems to permit of the possibility that it is not an unvarying norm we are dealing with here. Rather, it is a custom from that time that does not necessarily bind us today. This of course seems to be how the Church understands this text for she does not require head coverings for her daughters.
1. That women are not required to wear veils today is clear in terms of Church Law. The argument that the Church is remiss in not requiring this of her daughters is hard to sustain when scriptures attach the word “custom” to the practice.
2. I will say however that I like veils and miss women wearing them. When I was a boy in the 1960s my mother and sister always wore their veils and so did all women in those days and I remember how modestly beautiful I found them to be. When I see women wear them today I have the same impression.
3. That said, a woman does not go to Church to please or impress me.
4. It is worth noting that a man is still forbidden to wear a hat in Church. If I see it I go to him and ask him to remove it. There a partial exception to the clergy who are permitted to wear birettas and to bishops who are to wear the miter. However, there are strict rules in this regard that any head cover is to be removed when they go to the altar. Hence, for men, the rule, or shall we say the custom, has not changed.
5. Argument 5 – The Argument from Humility – This leads me then to a possible understanding of the wearing of the veil for women and the uncovered head for the men that may be more useful to our times. Let’s call it The Argument from Humility.
For both men and women, humility before God is the real point of these customs. In the ancient world as now, women gloried in their hair and often gave great attention to it. St. Paul above, speaks of a woman’s hair as her glory. As a man I am not unappreciative of this glory. Women do wonderful things with their hair. As such their hair is part of their glory and, as St. Paul says it seems to suggest above it is appropriate to cover our glory before the presence of God.
As for men, in the ancient world and to some lesser extent now, hats often signified rank and membership. As such men displayed their rank and membership in organizations with pride in the hats they wore. Hence Paul tells them to uncover their heads and leave their worldly glories aside when coming before God. Today men still do some of this (esp. in the military) but men wear less hats in general. But when they do they are often boasting of allegiances to sports teams and the like. Likewise, some men who belong to fraternal organizations such as the various Catholic Knights groups often display ranks on their hats. We clergy do this as well to some extent with different color poms on birettas etc. Paul encourages all this to be left aside in Church. As for the clergy, though we may enter the Church with these ranked hats and insignia, we are to cast them aside when we go to the altar. Knights organizations are also directed to set down their hats when the Eucharistic prayer begins.
I do not advance this argument from humility to say women ought to cover their heads, for I would not require what the Church does not. But I offer the line of reasoning as a way to understand veiling in a way that is respectful of the modern setting, IF a woman chooses to use the veil. Since this is just a matter of custom then we are not necessarily required to understand its meaning in exactly the way St. Paul describes. Submission is biblical but it need not be the reason for the veil. Humility before God seems a more workable understanding especially since it can be seen to apply to both men and women in the way I have tried to set it forth.
There are an amazing number of styles when it comes to veils and mantillas: Mantillas online
This video gives some other reasons why a woman might wear a veil. I think it does a pretty good job of showing some of the traditions down through the centuries. However I think the video strays from what I have presented here in that it seems to indicate that women ought to wear the veil and that it is a matter of obedience. I do not think that is what the Church teaches in this regard. There can be many good reasons to wear the veil but I don’t think we can argue that obedience to a requirement is one of them.
231 Replies to “Should Women Cover Their Heads in Church?”
Hi Msgr. I debated this on my blog a while back. Have been covering for a while, now, in private prayer. In church, it took some getting used to.
In winter a scarf worked for me, although I admit, I tended to fidget with it a little. This works for me now, as it has a comb in it:
Ah yes thanks for the link to your discussion. I do remember reading it some time back. Great discussion. Thanks also for the link. I know the shorter veils were also very common when I was a boy in the early sixties.
Ah yes…now if we would all kneel and receive our Lord on the tongue and NEVER in the hands,
Jesus, Mary, Joseph and all the Saints and angels would be so happy.
“There can be many good reasons to wear the veil but I don’t think we can argue that obedience to a requirement is one of them.”
Why not just obedience to the Bible? I don’t quite understand St. Paul’s arguments for wearing veils, but then again, I don’t quite understand 75% of what the apostle says–and I doubt very much that I am alone on this one. But what I do understand is that the apostle mandated women wear veils during worship, and affirmed the Churches of God recognize no other practice. If it was a matter of flexible practice, why the inflexibility? The Roman Empire was huge and extremely diverse. Headcoverings were not used in many places; but they were always used by Christians and Jews.
Here is St. Paul, who was gungho about jettisoning kosher laws and such. If this was such a light matter, why would St. Paul, of all people, treat it with such gravity? The tradition of veiling is so ancient, so venerable, so precious…I think even by the time of Jesus people forgot why they did it. But, nevertheless, it must be preserved.
In my personal opinion, I think the veil is a sign of the holiness Christ bestowed on women by being born of the Virgin Mary. The ark of the covenant was veiled, and I take the veiling of women to be a kind of prophecy that one day, a member of their sex would become the new ark of the covenant. The sign must be preserved, if for nothing else, as a devotion to Our Lady.
Well I think what I am arguing is that Paul ultimately ascribes it to custom. Hence I don’t know if one can argue that it is obedience to Scripture per se. I think one is free to give a lot of weight to what Paul describes but in the end even he ascribes it to custom.
This has always been one of the major sticking points for my wife. She sees it as just one more way that men have lorded it over women. However, Geoffrey brings up some good points here. I especially like the last paragraph he wrote about the veil being a sign of holiness that Christ bestowed on women. I may have to use that one next time this conversation comes up…
Yes, I think if most Women choose to wear the veil it will be beause of more expansive reasons than just submission. A sign of holiness is surely a positive image.
I’ve been wearing a veil in church for almost a year now and the few times I’ve forgotten one has caused me to feel very exposed and uncomfortable. I think the practice is a beautiful tradition that young people like myself (I’m 26) were deprived of but I am very grateful to have been given knowledge about it now. Seems to me that the “unveiling” is a product of the sexual revolution…women want (or at least back in the 70’s when it hit full force) to be seen as equal to men in every way, but God did not make us so. I really like the symbolic reference made about the veiled woman mirroring the new Ark of the Covenant, Our Blessed Mother Mary. I feel very close to her when I veil myself, I immediately feel more reverent. Aren’t women who meet the Pope strongly encouraged to veil themselves?
I think you are right about the Pope. They are also asked (not required) to wear black or dark blue. You are also right the veil is a beautiful tradition. I miss it a lot and am always glad to seem them. I do understand why some women are averse to them as well. Your reference to the unveiling of the sexual revolution made me smile for a moment since I recalled that the Greek word for unveiling is Apocalupsis (Apocalypse) which means, as you have noted that the sexual revolution was a apocalypse! Thanks for the inisght
I was twenty-something when we discontinued wearing the chapel veils. I don’t recall it happening in one fell swoop. But it happened. Sexual revolution? I had no idea what THAT was back then. So, no, it wasn’t that. When I did wear the chapel veil I never felt it had anything to do with being a put down toward women. It was merely that I didn’t like it and considered it a bother. It had nothing to do with my love for God or the Mass. Wearing a chapel veil didn’t make us holier or act holier. Not wearing one has not affected my level of fervor.
my wife began covering her head in private prayer a few months ago which i think is beautiful. shes yet to in mass attendance, but then shes fairly shy and as a recent convert <2yrs i think it would probably draw attention that would make her self conscious, drawing focus off the mass and onto whether shes being judged by all the progressives who make up so much of our (and most) parish. perhaps in a few years when she has a greater sense of establishment in our parish, and God willing, the pendulum swings back away from the new world ways of so many of our Catholic families, she'll take to veiling in mass. either way shes submissive as my bride and treats me (for the most part) as Christ would have her, and it gives me inspiration to love and lead her as Christ would have me. anyway, veiling in mass is awesome and i personally would like to see more women choose it for themselves.
Thanks. Thanks also for the love and appreciation you obviously have for your wife, and she for you.
and just look for a moment at the picture above, how elegant and classy and holy.
Yes, it is a very nice picture.
In thinking about this, I thought of Religious women wearing veils. And I thought why do Religious women wear veils (at all, not just at Mass)?
I am not sure of the full history but I do know that the religious habit for women is bridal in nature.
I wear my hair down as a sign of modesty. My hair is long and very thick, and I use it almost as a veil because I can be shy, if you want this point of view. I am growing it out for Locks of Love, which is a charity that makes wigs for children with cancer. While my hair has been called glorious, I want to share that wealth with others. On veils, I have never worn one to church, but as aforementioned seen my hair as a veil of sorts.
Thanks, what a wonderful thing to grow “locks of love”
If the 1983 code doesn’t mention something doesn’t that mean the 1917 code is in force on that article i.e. when the 1983 does not make an explicit negation of the 1917 code then the 1917 code is to be followed? I haven’t studied much canon law, but i thought that was the law.
I am not sure of this. An argument from silence is not usually a string argument if it is being used to annunciate a requirement. It is true that both Canon Law and liturgical law do presume SOME things. For example the rubrics of mass do not tell me to wear socks. Things like that are presumed. Nevertheless it would be pretty ahrd to argue that women are currently required to wear veils based on the 1917 code and also because the bishops of the Church remain silent on any such requirement. I wonder if Ed Peters can help us here http://canonlawblog.blogspot.com/
Canon 20: “A later law abrogates, or derogates, an earlier law if it states so expressly, is directly contrary to it, or completely reorders the entire matter of the earlier law. A universal law, however, in no way derogates from a particular or special law unless the law expressly provides otherwise.” Canon 21: “In a case of doubt, the revocation of a pre-existing law is not presumed, but later laws must be related to the earlier ones and, insofar as possible, must be harmonized with them.”
Pope Paul VI addressed the issue through one of his emissaries in mid-1969. An article in The Atlanta Journal of June 21, 1969, titled “Women Required to Cover Head, Vatican Insists,” states: “A Vatican official says there has been no change, as reported, in the Roman Catholic rule that women cover their head in church. The Rev. Annibale Bugnini, secretary of the New Congregation for Divine Worship, said the reports stemmed from a misunderstanding of a statement he made at a news conference in May. Bugnini stated: ‘The rule has not been changed. It is a matter of general discipline.'”
Then in 1975, Paul VI, in addressing the matter of whether women could be ordained to the priesthood, made a brief mention of head coverings in his letter titled Inter Insignores. I will underline the parts that are relevant to our topic. He writes:
Another objection [to ordaining women as priests] is based upon the transitory character that one claims to see today in some of the prescriptions of Saint Paul concerning women, and upon the difficulties that some aspects of his teaching raise in this regard. But it must be noted that these ordinances, probably inspired by the customs of the period, concern scarcely more than disciplinary practices of minor importance, such as the obligation imposed upon women to wear a veil on their head (1 Cor 11:2-16); such requirements no longer have a normative value. However, the Apostle’s forbidding of women to speak in the assemblies (1 Cor 14:34-35; 1 Ti, 2:12) is of a different nature, and exegetes define its meaning in this way: Paul in no way opposes the right, which he elsewhere recognizes as possessed by women, to prophesy in the assembly (1 Cor 11:15); the prohibition solely concerns the official function of teaching in the Christian assembly. For Saint Paul this prescription is bound up with the divine plan of creation (1 Cor 11:7; Gen 2:18-24): it would be difficult to see in it the expression of a cultural fact. Nor should it be forgotten that we owe to Saint Paul one of the most vigorous texts in the New Testament on the fundamental equality of men and women, as children of God in Christ (Gal 3:28). Therefore there is no reason for accusing him of prejudices against women, when we note the trust that he shows towards them and the collaboration that he asks of them in his apostolate.
They don’t seem to be the most couth group. Oh and I am a man.
Thanks for this reference.
Quite honestly the only reason I wore a veil in the ’50s and ’60s is because it was mandated. It was nothing but an annoyance for me. When I see women wearing hats or veils in church now, I feel as if they are calling attention to themselves, which really is not humble. I feel the same way when I see people genuflect before receiving communion. It’s another way to get attention. If the church decided to make it the law again, I would wear a head covering in compliance. Same for genuflecting before receiving communion, although that sort of thing is getting hard for me at my age. I’m willing to do what the church mandates whether or not I agree. (I guess that’s my way of being humble.) Otherwise I wouldn’t.
That’s not a very charitable or liberal attitude, Ruth Ann. Why not presume good intentions unless someone gives you reason not to? Isn’t it possible that the person is in conversation with God, and not you, when he makes gestures toward God?
I think it’s sad when Catholics presume to KNOW what’s in the hearts of those who choose to express their reverence for God in a different way than you do. To say that someone who is wearing a veil or genuflecting before receiving the Eucharist is trying to call attention to themselves is incredibly presumptious. My nine year old just last week began receiving the Eucharist on his knees. This is not something that the rest of us do, but he told me that he “just wanted to show as much respect for Jesus as he could.” I was moved to tears because, you see, I know him. And I know that his desire to please God is authentic, it has NOTHING to do with trying to draw attention to himself. Please don’t judge!!
I think I agree with J here. I generally try to presume good intentions over bad ones. It give me more serenity
It is interesting to see the responses to my post about calling attention to oneself at Mass. I picked the chapel veil and genuflecting as two examples of this. But I also think one should not call attention to oneself at Mass in other ways. Some examples: wearing ostentatious clothing, jewelry or hairstyles of any sort, holding a conversation with someone before Mass begins, saying the Mass responses or singing extremely loudly so it drowns out others, allowing one’s undisciplined children to create havoc and disturb everyone else. My reasoning is precisely that Jesus and not these other things ought to be the center of attention, so I want to blend in and not look or behave in a way that eyes and thoughts of others are on me instead of Jesus.
In no way do I attempt to judge the intentions of others. I am certainly not a mind/heart reader. In fact, I feel sure those who wear veils or kneel in the communion line believe that they are doing a reverent act. But there’s the effect on others to consider. When we had to wear veils and when we had altar railings for kneeling at communion these behaviors were not distractions, but the norm. When I was a child there was no way I wanted to be wearing that thing, but not to do so would have be noticed—for sure.
I am curious to know how wearing a veil and/or genuflecting impacts others. Seems to me that if one’s focus _truly were_ on Christ, one wouldn’t even notice whether a fellow parishioner had her head covered (unless it were with a humongous hat) or genuflected before receiving the Eucharist.
Ruth Ann, I am a 15-year-old girl who wears a veil in church and genuflects before receiving the Eucharist. I am no great scholar, but one thing occurred to me very strongly as I read your post.
I by no means genuflect to gain attention, and I doubt most other people do. When I genuflect, it is because I am about to receive my God, who created me, suffered and died for me, and rose to redeem me from my sins. I am about to receive the Almighty! Something I have always thought, which gives me such a love and reverence for the Eucharist, is this: if Jesus Himself were standing before me in all His glory, would I merely bow my head and say “Hello there, Jesus.”? Who would not be driven to his knees by the visible presence of his Redeemer? That Divine presence is exactly what we receive in Holy Eucharist, but at Mass there is one catch: our senses tell us we are only receiving bread and wine. It takes an effort of faith to believe that that little wafer is Jesus: Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity.
For my part, I believe that, no matter what those around me think, I should honor my King as best I can, and for me that includes genuflecting before Communion. I understand that this is no requirement, therefore I will not say that others should genuflect as well; I fully understand that it is a matter of personal preference and many people prefer not to. It would be silly and arrogant of me to say “They don’t genuflect before they receive Communion; they must not love God very much.” How can I know what is in a person’s heart?
You are entitled to your opinion, but I ask that you consider the accuracy of your statements. It is unfair to assume that people genuflect to gain attention; maybe some people do, but I (and I hope most other people that genuflect) do it as an act of personal devotion without a thought for those around me.
Yours was a beautiful reply, Emma. What a great blessing to be so young and yet so well formed in your view of The Most Blessed Sacrament. May God continue to bless you.
this is a true reply..i also use a head cover during worship because the bible says so..why not do something that is written as a command…woundnt we obey without questioning if the king’s command comes that way.Bible is the written word of God..it contains everything that God wants of us…
Speaking only for myself, Ruth Ann, it is precisely thoughts such as you expressed here that kept me from covering for a long time, even though I felt a strong calling to do so. I knew I would be judged as preening or thinking myself “holier than thou.” Even worse, I worried that some women might feel that I was making a silent rebuke to those who did not cover. It should not be this complicated, though. My covering has nothing to do with anyone else; it is between me and God. That’s something I had to figure out. I had to trust that whatever motives others assigned to my covering said more about the other person, than about me.
In the end, as I said on my blog, I had to be obedient to what I felt called to do, and yes–knowing that I would be judged harshly by some for covering–I felt very much as though my going ahead with it was the acceptance of a mortification, and a discipline of obedience.
I began considering covering my head, without actually doing it, when I found my mother’s old mantilla when cleaning out her things after she died (she had long since abandoned the Faith). It is now lost among my own things, however. It was fear of judgement of others in my own parish that kept me from wearing it after I found it. I already have a large family and we home school, plus one of my children has Asperger’s and another autism – and we try to be as respectful as possible to Jesus at Holy Mass. Trust me, calling more attention to myself is *not* what I want.
When The Anchoress began posting her thoughts on veils, I started thinking about it more seriously. Last Christmas, the choir had a loud brass band at Midnight Mass that was rattling my eardrums (literally, quite painful) and I put a heavy scarf over my head to deaden the sound. I suddenly realized it was like a little tent of meeting – I liked it under there! I had a kind of sanctuary to retreat to with Jesus and I found it quite prayerful. I began using light silk scarves to cover my head just after receiving Eucharist and then just gave in and bought a small black triangular veil to wear through all of Holy Mass. Of course I got stares the first few weeks but no one has said anything to me.
I find it very sad that the judgement automatically goes to ‘calling attention’ to ones self. Do people who make those judgements when a man shows up wearing a suit and tie? What I want to do is live to honor and glorify Jesus on earth so I can be prepared to do that same thing in Heaven for Eternity. While I know I do that imperfectly, it is still what my heart longs to do.
thanks for sharing this experience.
You can say anyone doing anything is calling attention to themselves and make anything appear bad like that. I agree with the others’ statements – and I will add that stating that people who wear veils or genuflect before the Eucharist is calling for attention is not very humble.
I would love to see more women wear veils, and I see a few at Mass, however, most do not and its a shame that most of us do not. I really admire those women who do. I being a recent convert 4 yrs. ago I have been interested in wearing a veil to Mass but I haven’t yet. And yes, my reason isn’t all that valid. I don’t mostly because of a feeling of self conciousness In time I do hope to join the few that do wear veils.
Fact is, there’s no such thing as “freedom of lifestyle”. Every lifestyle choice one makes exerts a little bit of pressure in all directions, and if anyone observes you living a lifestyle that challenges his own, he will feel uncomfortable or even offended if he does not have a clear understanding and a strong conviction for his own lifestyle.
Yes, comfort in things soemtimes comes slowly. Most things feel awkward at first. And since you have freedom in this matter there is no rush to do something one way or the other.
Your words about us being in the realm of custom remind me of St Paul’s discussion of the matter, which was from a particularly Jewish point of view. A few women wear veils at one Catholic Church I attend. My wife has only worn a veil at Holy Mass on one special occasion for us, and I am happy for her to leave it at that (maybe my funeral as well).
There was an apostolic custom amoung Jewish Christians of men wearing skull caps when leading prayer during the early centuries, but that has since been restricted to just bishops (as far as I know). However, I would like to start wearing a skull cap at our family meal prayers, as head of our domestic church, on Friday at sunset. What do you think?
I think you are free to do this. Also, I think priests are still allowed to wear a black skull cap. It’s just done very rarely today.
I forgot to add to my comment that some nuns still wear a veil too.
Yes, they are brides of Christ and so dress in a bridal attire of sorts.
Some nuns? No, all nuns who are obedient to the Church wear a veil. End of story.
But any woman who prays or prophesies with her head unveiled brings shame upon her head, for it is one and the same thing as if she had her head shaved.
This seems to indicate very strongly that St Paul considers it a matter of modestly (as was implied in 1917 Canon law) and not primarily custom. The question is whether the apostle considers it shameful due to the nature of the act or due to the scandal it could possibly cause. The first would be serious and not liable to changes of custom while the 2nd would. The fact that the following language was used: “for it is one and the same thing as if she” would seem to indicate she is considered as an adulteress and her shame is exposed for all to see.
I do not believe Paul’s insistence was primarily due to any prevailing customs. Neither do the churches of God have the custom of lying, murder, adultery, etc. Phrasing it that way does not mean that adultery, etc may be permittable in the future. It would be nice to know the correct context/ connotation of the words used in the original language as they may be slightly different in English. At least the way custom is used in English does not necessarily indicate that the act/ custom or its antithesis has no moral significance.
It would seem that in ancient society it was a sign of humility and respect that a man uncovered before another- it seemed to have less to do with insignias than an acknowledgement of one’s lower position. Peasants/ servants, etc always removed their hats. However, to ask a woman to uncover was regarded as quite a different thing. Then again we have become incredibly desensitized to this in recent history- to the point that many women cover so little. To require it then was regarded as enforcing one’s will and power- an attack upon modesty, protection and the respect it was believed a woman should be regarded with. Unfortunately this was often violated in the past but now grosser outrages are encouraged. To willfully do it to one’s self was regarded as an attempt to seduce or being immodest.
Since it is sinful to intentionally break canon law (and it most definitely was not immoral to obey it) prior to 1983 all those who willingly and knowingly consented to do so were guilty as judged by the Church and therefore God (the Peterine keys). Obviously those who were confused, etc are not guilty of serious sin. With the advent of 1983 it is more debatable it would seem. Currently there seems to be a lot of confusion surrounding St Paul’s command. Of course on non-intrinsically evil acts the Church possesses the power of the keys and head covering is such. However, if there is a conscious sin against modesty, etc there would still be a sin despite the Church’s permission of such acts. Gravity of course determined by extenuating factors.
Since it is rightfully considered a custom as it was not legislated until 1917 (excepting the apostle Paul perhaps) it has certain considerations it seems to me according to 1983 Canon Law. It meets the conditions of Canons 23 to 28 and as an immemorial custom would have the force of law. In light of Canons 5 and 20 it would seem an argument can be made that the custom of veiling is still possibly binding. It was never canonically reprobated and is not contrary to any doctrine or teaching held by the Church. It was definitely a universal custom enjoying the benefits of the support of canon law (after 1917) up until the 1960s. It was obviously violated canonically from ? to 1983. It was never reprobated and Canon law of 1983 does permit former laws to enjoy the force of law (such as those against masons) which are not explicitly enjoined in 1983 Canon Law.
Having said that. It is no longer practiced today universally and has not been for some time universally. I suppose the proper question is at what point do those who willingly and knowingly violate an immemorial custom enjoying prescriptive privileges no longer sin by disobeying it and at what point does an immemorial custom lose its prescriptive privileges if it was never expressly reprobated by the Church and yet has fallen into disuse at least temporarily?
Having said that at this time for those laity who believe head coverings do and should enjoy prescriptive force according to 1983 Canon Law it is best to be charitable and realize that there are others who disagree and do so with a clear conscience. For those who do not possess canonical authority to enforce veiling would be violating one of the most important laws- Canon 1752. It is for the Church to enforce Canon law and applicable customs. Though I must admit that enforcement on many fronts has been rather lax the past 50 years.
As far as those who say veiling is no longer culturally relevant I would argue that it is now more so than ever. Contrary to an old EWTN article I would also say that liturgically it symbolizes a very great mystery- that of the relationship between Christ and His Church who veils Herself in humility, submission, modestly and yes mystery. Humility because she does not seek her own glory. Submission because she seeks what pleases Him. Modesty because she wishes all to look upon Him and mystery because of the power of God that has been entrusted to Her.
I agree with you Father that modesty and humility are the best arguments. Thank you for all your work and thoughtful insights. God bless you and all.
St Paul indicates that shaving hair brings shame (not quite the Greek), but he himself shaved his head as an act of devotion (to indicate a vow taken as in Jewish custom).
It is interesting that not wearing the veil is discussed as similar to an action that St Paul himself did out of devotion, shaving his head. I guess one can argue from St Paul that NOT wearing a veil then is an indication of humility, penitence and devotion then, just as his shaving his head was. (Of course I am aware that in Jewish times it was particularly shameful for a woman, however shaving of hair is an act of devotion common amoung religious orders for women at the time of taking a vow).
So I am happy to take wearing a veil as a custom that promotes modesty (amoung women with beautiful hair), and shaving their head or not wearing a veil as a different form or act of devotion
Perhaps David but St Paul never said it was shameful for a man to shave his head. It doesn’t quite make sense to correlate it between men and women when Paul’s whole thrust of the argument addresses the differences between men and women. Actually the shaving of the apostle Paul was due to a vow. Religious orders also have done it since it was done in Roman times to indicate that one was a slave. It is saying that they are slaves of Christ. However, in the time of Paul it does not seem to be a prevalent practice. It is a later custom in Christianity (and different from St Paul’s vows). Obviously in Paul’s time adultresses were punished in such a manner. I do not see how one can argue from St Paul’s words that not wearing a veil is an indication of humility/ devotion- especially when he explicitely mentions it in a negative manner so forcefully.
As far as religious sisters yes there is the tradition of cutting their hair. It has manifold meanings ranging from an abandonment of vanities and one’s own glory to a reference to the ancient Roman practice of tonsuring slaves. However, shortly after the hair is cut they receive the veil- setting them aside as a bride of Christ and being covered by His mantle(covering their nakedness- Ezekiel 16:1-14). From then on it is common practice for them to remain veiled in public (as was done anciently). To refer to this ritual to support the practice of not wearing veils does not quite make sense. The ultimate end, orientation and historical context of the two practices are contradictory. The historical context of not wearing veils dates primarily from the 60s- though it ceased to be common practice in public by the 1800s in certain areas and amoungst certain classes. It was never associated historically with any mainstream religious piety but often was correlated to the more progressive elements of society and slowly gained acceptance. I have yet to see a substantial argument for its sound religious foundations. This is not to say that women who do not veil can’t be pious but that the practice has no historical/ doctrinal support and is contrary to ancient tradition. It came in from outside the Church- secular sources.
However, it is not the most serious issue confronting the Church. I believe it would be good for it to return to mainstream practice and believe that sound arguments can be made for such a move. It is a venerable custom but the Church is the arbiter of such matters and currently She sees fit not to enforce it though I believe that there are strong arguments that it was never rescinded.
As far as modesty- it involves much more than just physical appearance. It is an expression of the soul which due to our having physical bodies must necessarily manifest itself in a physical manner also.
In the end God is the judge of hearts. The heart of every sister in the Faith will be revealed on Judgement day. then we will truly know why some choose to do it and others not. God will judge them according to His knowledge and not ours.
While I do not go around telling women to veil, as a young man I would like to thank all those who do. I realize that many do it despite the fear of being misunderstood and rejected by others though in their hearts they want to please God. In doing so they send a powerful message to the world and do an immense amount of evangelization. They preach a message of purity, modesty and holiness- even to those who do not want to hear. Those who desire to know more know who to talk to. The testimony of the Early Christians was not that they lived like everyone else but that they were different. If they lived like everyone else they would have never been persecuted. Conformity is not necessarily a virtue.
Thank you all sisters for all you do to serve God but especially those who veil for their public testimony, sacrifices and faith. Vaya con Dios.
It was a custom in Saint Paul’s life-time for men to not shave their beards. No man has ever said, “Well, it might not be customary, so we should do it!” There are many holy men from Apostolic time on who didn’t have beards. So the practice of beards was understood to be a custom, not a Commandment of the Lord. But when it comes to veils, suddenly the tables are turned, almost as if women are someone treated differently. (Not to cry sexism) I think if one looks at the whole issue of veils from the full perspective – men with beards, women with veils – one gets the clear understanding that the Apostle Paul was speaking about customs of men, just as, in other parts of the Sacred Scriptures, he speaks about traditions of men.
I can understand the origins of the veil, just as I can understand the origins of the beard – both steaming from Jesus, who was veiled during His Passion and who did not shave – but I can also understand the purification of the Church and the need to better understand the difference between Divine Law and customs in both the Old Testament and the New Testament. Yes some Christians claim we need to follow the Commandments of the Old Covenant, but than there are also some Christians who claim we need to follow the Epistles to the letter. Yet we know this isn’t true; we have a New Covenant and we must follow Christ in His Spirit, the Spirit of Charity: Even Scripture instructs this, so if we were follow the Bible to the letter we would have to not follow it to the letter! (Ironic, no?) God the Holy Spirit purifies and guides the Body of Christ, and I trust in Him to lead us into all truths.
N.B. Paul does not prescribe beards. He prescribes veils. So, not to cry sexism, but if you’re going to play the sexism card, understand that you’re playing it against Paul, not modern patriarchists (or chauvinists, if you prefer a pejorative term).
This is the real problem, that most women today see it is a debate rather than as reverence for being in the presence of the Lord. No one will get this if they don’t know the true presence. The Novus Ordo churches of today I have visited have all the reverence of a high school pep rally, which is why I returned to the Extraordinary Rite. We are Catholics, we are not Protestants.
I couldn’t agree more. I am a convert from and evangelical Christian church who has felt called to cover my head as a sign of submission to Christ as my Lord. I came to sense this call after I began to really understand the Real Presence in the Eucharist. I asked myself, “how would I dress if I was going to meet the President?” Would I wear a T-shirt, jeans shorts and flip-flops, like I would at my old church? If I wouldn’t dress that casually to meet someone like the President, why would I dress that way to meet the Savior of the Universe? I now consider it part of my modest dress appropriate for worship.
Yes, all of us need to look more carefully to how we dress for mass!
This is such a great post. I am a 58 year old convert, a professional woman and very much used to being in control and being very rational about my faith and practices. I was “forced” into wearing a veil when our Korean exchange student brought one as a gift–in his home women still traditionally wear veils. As any mother knows, a gift from one’s kid just HAS to be used, so, of course, I had to wear it at least once. I was so self-conscious (plus I had trouble keeping it on) but once I settled down and reflected on the experience it brought so many benefits, not the least of which was a way to set the time of worship apart by the way I dress–hard to do when I wear the same clothes Sunday and weekdays…. I took up wearing the veil regularly during Lent, at both Sunday and daily mass (which led to many adventures with lace, as I STILL had trouble keeping it on and keeping up with it) but the long and short of it is, now it feel respectful, right, reverent and I’m still doing it. I guess I’ll be one of those little old ladies with improbably beautiful veils one of these days. The point of this is that I found a remarkable spiritual experience of focus, reverence, elevation and humility by stepping WAY out of my comfort zone in this. I ended up losing 3 veils over Lent (I am not entirely sure that the lace wasn’t bothering someone with an agenda…) and going through a raft of bobby pins, but I finally solved the anchoring problem too. I’m the only woman in my parish who covers, but now I fell incomplete if I don’t. Whod’a thought? There’s a lot of wisdom in devotional practices even when we don’t always understand them, if we but give in to them. From my experience I ‘d say give it a try.
“once I settled down and reflected on the experience it brought so many benefits, not the least of which was a way to set the time of worship apart by the way I dress–hard to do when I wear the same clothes Sunday and weekdays….”
That is a very important point. I never went to mass “sloppy” but covering has made me more aware that while at mass I am “stepping out” of the rest of my day, and so on Sunday I find that I am making an effort to “dress up” a little more for mass. I even bought a skirt! 🙂
Nice stories all. I have celebrated Mass more than once for the Korean community and you are right almost all the women wear veils. It presents quite a beautiful sight.
So should men cover their heads in Church?
um, did you read the post? St. Paul banned men from covering their heads while he ordered women to.
Yes, I would agree with Chirs. There are certain cases (e.g. bishops where some head covering is had but it is strictly to be removed upon going to the altar
So why is the one treated as a strict rule while the other treated like a choice or preference? Isn’t that a double standard?
Nice post Msgr. Although it’s not binding in the new Code, it was also never supressed, so one could say it’s still in force because it was never formally taken away. Feminism has, of course, killed this custom for many along with society. It will return in full with the restoration …
Canon 20: “A later law abrogates, or derogates, an earlier law if it states so expressly, is directly contrary to it, or completely reorders the entire matter of the earlier law. A universal law, however, in no way derogates from a particular or special law unless the law expressly provides otherwise.”
Canon 21: “In a case of doubt, the revocation of a pre-existing law is not presumed, but later laws must be related to the earlier ones and, insofar as possible, must be harmonized with them.”
Again, I am not a canonist but I think Canon 6 explicity abrogates the 1917 code.
I had always thought of hat-wearing as part of “dressing up” for church.
Yes, until recent decades this seems to be the case. But we have gotten SO casual these days.
But is not a custom set by an Apostle the equivelant of Sacred Tradition? My understanding is that Sacred Tradition is what was handed down by the Apostles. So my thinking would be that a “t”radition mandated by an Apostle would be the equivelant of “T”radition in today’s Chruch.
Also, from my understanding of Canon law is that a custom has force of law. Now, today, a custom only becomes custom after 30 years, but I think that if an Apostle says something is a custom, well then that’s that. Also, veiling was never abbrogated by the Canon Law of 1983. It just is not stated in it. I also know that there is a Law that basically states that anything not specifically stated against a former Law, in the new Canon Law, is still in force.
Ah welcome to one of the great indoor sports of theology: that of indicating Tradition vs tradition. I personally think it is a hard argument to make that when Paul links it to custom that we should consider it “T”radition. As for what was abrogated by the 1983 Code, Canon 6 explicit states that the 1917 code is abrogated
Dear Msgr Pope,
I’ve just recently begun reading your blogs. I find them both interesting and informative. I hadn’t given much thought to the custom of the veil and your article has provided food for thought.
My initial reaction however, is that there is a desperate need for women (and men) to come dressed appropriately for the Eucharistic celebration. I am far more distressed by the lack of humility and respect that is reflected in the clothing worn at Mass, than on whether or not women wear veils. It seems to me that we should address the more fundamental issue of wearing one’s “Sunday best” to Mass each week before we can effectively restore (or present for the first time) an understanding of the custom of wearing a veil.
Yes, indeed , perhaps another blog on this next week?!
I’ll look forward to your thoughts!
I have read St. Paul’s words about women covering their heads many times and it seems to me, just my opinion, that the bible being meant for all people, for all time, would not include something that our Lord does not want us to consider if it only applied to that time. I just don’t think the Lord would waste his time and deliberately confuse us. Through much prayer and meditation and some research I have come up with something that, I think, helps clarify the issue, at least for me. Whenever I have a question, I look toward heaven. In matters pertaining to women why look any further than our own Blessed Mother? Truely loved by God as she is not only the Mother of God, but the Queen of Heaven and Earth and is forever in the presence of God. In every image of The Blessed Mother that I have seen she has a head covering. I was always told to look to the Blessed Mother for guidance, for through the Mother we find the Son. If so, then it seems clear to me that a head covering MAY BE the way to go. I say “may be” because there is no concrete directive by the church at this time. However, as a loving husband of both God and my wife and given it is my responsibility to spiritually guide the household I feel it necessary to discuss the issue with my wife. I understand their is no rule and she has her own free will but I try to always please the Lord and want her to WANT to please him as well. Not because I rule over her but because I can attest personally to the benefits of making God central in life and doing your best to please him. How can I say I truely love her if I don’t try to help her? Just because it is not mandated by the church but SEEMS important to God through St. Paul in the bible I think God finds it pleasing that, not only do we follow our Church leaders direction but try to “do a little extra”.
Finally, I think, sadly, mankind has distorted much of the Lord’s words and made them more of a battle of the sexes than about glorifying and worshiping God. Even though Our lord asks a woman to “submit” to her husband it does not mean she is a slave to him or is any less loved by God. It seems to me that God has his particular roles for men and women and how they should conduct themselves. In other words, this is a spiritual directive NOT a societal one. My understanding is, and feel free to correct me Father, is that Spiritually the man is the head of the household and a wife should take his direction when coming to worship of the faith. However, if I demand dinner on the table when I get home, her options are open and not as far as what she makes me! The bible also clearly states a man should submit to his wife in certain matters so this struggle for control seems ridiculous. In the end it is all about God as ruler, not us as individual rulers. In conclusion, for me life is a spiritual journey toward perfect love of God and that includes conducting myself properly and trying to help others, especially my loved ones, attain the same. Thank you for a thought provoking post and for clarifying the scripture to help me on my journey. God bless you Msgr!
I would generally agree with your notion that we ought to give the nod to even customs described by the apostles. That is my Personal take. However, the Church is the official interpreter of the Scriptures and has not apparently chosen to take this approach to this passage. It is true that the 1917 code did codify this custom. However, there is is enough variability in both Church hostory and also in western and eastern tradition that I am left to conclude that the Church would not share the notion you state (and also my general instinct) in this PARTICULAR matter.
I love wearing a mantilla – started 2 years ago at traditional Latin mass. I don’t think of it as related to “obedience” or what St. Paul said – I honestly just think the veil helps me pray better, and also keep custody of the eyes (a real feat for me).
Great thanks for explaining what it means to you and how it helps
Thanks for treating this issue so amicably, Monsignor. I’d like to understand better why a woman is so often ill-treated by other Catholics in the parish, usually by means of impolite or even rude questions, for choosing to wear a veil.
Speaking of St Paul’s “hard” teachings (i.e., “Christian”) regarding women: I have two questions, 1) Why does the Church in the U.S. skip 1 Cor 14 when it reads that sequence from 12–15 or 16? I presume it’s because that’s where it says women ought not to speak in church, and the bishops want to avoid the awkward moment when the woman lector would read those lines, or the woman music minister is standing in the most prominent place in the church, i.e. the microphone in front of the band area in my old parish church (in the Archdiocese of Washington; I won’t say which parish).
and 2) In light of that passage, why do Biblical religions have women lectors at all? Is the excuse simply that Paul is appealing to custom here? It seems strange to me that he would bother to prescribe what it already customary. As a student of ancient history, I’ve been taught that an historically sound methodology for interpreting the old codes (Theodosian, Justinian) is to see something being prescribed and infer that it is *not* being done currently, and to see something proscribed and infer that it *is* being done currently.
Now of course Paul came a bit before the earliest edict in the Theodosian Code, but wouldn’t it make more sense to infer that a prescriptive law was an attempt to cause a certain behavior? If so, then the motivation could not have been mundane custom, could it have been?
Happy Feast of St Bernardine of Siena!
By the way I’m talking about women speaking (as treated in 1 Cor 14) here, not women’s heads covered/uncovered.
Well, the general understanding of 1 Cor 14 (about a woman being silent in Church) is usually interpreted by the Church to mean she cannot officially teach in the Liturgical assembly, in other words, cannot give the homily. Why it is ommitted in the lectionary cycle is probably as you say. To avoid controversy, however I am not sure. However we DO observe the norm rather strictly in that only a bishop, priest, or deacon can preach/teach the homily. Paul elsewhere speaks of women “prophesying” in church (1 Cor 11) and also speaks of them as catechists (I forget where). Hence they are not wholly excluded from utter a word in the liturgy. Today we do not prophesy in Mass but one can well argue that proclaiming the readings is a form of this. I do not think the exclusion of teaching by women can be considered custom since Paul links it to “the law”
Thanks for the blog, Msgr. The veils and mantillas are quite beautiful as are those they adorn. I, having come of age in the Church in the 1980’s, never thought about them myself. Logically, however, if modesty were the goal, it seems to me plain coverings like those of veils that religious women wear would be more in keeping with the spirit of Paul’s statements. If anything the beauty of the fine lace draws my attention. My hair is short, but I assure you it is not for the ancient Biblical reasons you stated! It always seemed to me that neither my plain hair nor my dress were such to distract any soul from the great prayer of the Mass.
I have wondered about this too. In the hat dept. the situation can get worse in that in some places I’ve been (mainly the African American churches) there can be quite a friendly competition about who has the flashiest hat. 🙂
Perhaps plain veils would be more modest. However, the lace ones bespeak religiousity to me somehow. I suppose the elegance can get too far down the showy path, but I also think, from the perspective of a man, that modesty and beauty are not necessarily opposed. Maybe the phrase that best describes what it is a goal is “simple elegance”
This was a fantastic explanation of a practice that, as a convert to the faith, has always been mysterious to me. Thank you!
Thanks I am glad it helps
Monsignor, you sure do like to stir the pot. Clearly people have preferences about what constitutes “appropriate” reverence or worship. For example, I visited the website you promoted advertising mantillas for sale and it seems strange to me that they are all quite extravagant looking and see-through–more akin to a woman’s undergarment than to something which is meant to direct attention away from the “glory of women”. If one wants to cover their hair then a simple and humble piece of opaque cloth would certainly do a better job. I note also that people I have known who advance the use of mantillas (priests and lay people) tend to like the priest wearing extravagant lace and gold vestments as well. I’m sure the market for vintage fiddle-backs is booming in some places. I agree with Adele that there seems to be a double standard somewhere. To speak of humility as a reason for a veil and then allow that priests may wear signs of rank and prestige while in the church as long as they are not directly at the altar doesn’t make sense. Humility is a quality of one’s character which is reflected in behavior and comportment in all places.
Ironically, all of this discussion comes so soon after the reading about the Council of Jerusalem, when the Apostles agreed that placing undue burdens of particular (Jewish) customs on new (gentile) converts to Christianity would turn people away and get in the way of the Good News…
With all of the emphasis on what Paul said, it would also be good to remember a letter he wrote to the Galatians. (3:28)
I also like Merchant of Venice 1.3.95.
1. There seems to be a strong movement among the respondents to revive and “enforce” a rule about women wearing a head covering in Church as if it were part of the Tradition of the Church. This is not part of the Tradition, and an attempt by one group to enforce a particular cultural expression upon all because they have fond memories of growing up with it is not about the Good News–it’s a power play and it’s bullying. My reference to the Council of Jerusalem was meant to reinforce that the Apostles themselves (at Peter’s insistence) rejected this approach to living as Church.
2. Any enforcement of this rule would be an expression of sexism which is clearly condemned in the Scriptures. Sexism in Genesis (the social dominance of men over women) was a consequence of SIN in chapter 3–it does not represent the world the way God had made it in the stories of chapters 1 and 2. In Galatians 3:28 Paul says ” There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” In Jesus the world is redeemed and the sinful social order of the old world needs to be rejected in favor of God’s way.
If you read these responses, you’ll see that nobody in favor of veils is trying to “enforce” it on others (what, precisely, are you quoting when you use those quotation marks anyway?). Your problem is the same as Ruth Ann’s, above.
There’s no need for you to feel threatened by the reverence which others show toward God. Your whole point hinges on “enforcement,” something nobody has suggested. Why bring it into the conversation?
No burdens are intended here. A veil is entirely optional. I understand that the clerical ranking etc may be something worth examining. However, one point is clear that once at the altar all head coverings are removed. Remember too, fussing about rules here, there ARE NO RULES for women. Only men. Hence your argument about fairness is rather theoretical.
As for the extravangence Issue I already commented about but it seems that a good goal in these matters is simple elegance. But again Daniel, we men especially ought to stop imposing a lot of rules on women in this regard since the whole thing is entirely optional for them . All the should and oughts are really misplaced. It is a freedom women enjoy.
I’m 36 and started wearing the veil 5 years ago. It felt awkward at first, but that was because I was concerned it would cause controversy. I was surprised to find that I’ve gotten nothing but positive feedback for 5 years – usually from men – priests and lay – who LOVE to see women wearing the veil.
Here’s what my grandfather told me when I was about 8:
White veils are for unmarried women.
Black veils are for married women.
I never thought about it until I was over 30, strongly called to the vocation of marriage, and painfully single.
Wearing the veil helped me to remember that my FIRST vocation (everyone’s FIRST vocation) is a call to holiness. Regardless of your station in life – single, divorced seeking an annulment, married, widowed, seminarian, clergy, consecrated religious – our vocation is to holiness. Christ is the bridegroom, and we as the church are His bride. The veil reminded me that I was already a bride – it wasn’t something that was going to be kept from me.
Wearing the veil was also inspired through my study of the Theology of the Body where I became aware that women have a particular propensity to control things and avoid submission. This is why Ephesians 5:22-33 is so important and such a bitter pill for women to swallow. I realized this was true in myself and use the veil to make a conscious statement to God that I desired to be submissive to His will. This also reminded me of Mary’s full submission – her Fiat- her 100% yes to God’s will.
Veils are also just simply feminine. They’re girlie. It was (is) a way of embracing my womanhood. God made me a woman – so I get the privilege of wearing a beautiful veil.
I also wanted to find a spouse that delighted in my beauty – to be delighted in the fact that I desired holiness. Wearing the veil was another way of stating to prospective suitors that I desired God’s will- that I was striving for holiness – and that there was no mistake about it. I dare say, that while wearing the veil, it’s quite impossible, if not unnatural for a man to lust after a woman. It just elicits a different response – one of admiration and a desire to protect the woman.
I’m happily married (it’s been one year!) to a wonderful, respectful, courageous man who is also striving for holiness and who is striving to live out Ephesians 5:22 – 33 – especially verse 25. 🙂
Now that I’m married, I wear a black veil and have passed the white veil along to another single friend. Many women approach me and ask me about the veil. I tell them these details and they all respond with, “Wow- I think I’m going to start wearing one now.”
So if you’ve been wondering about it – try it out for a while- I found mine on Ebay. See if it helps your prayer life. I bet it will.
Thanks for this testimony.
I am bothered by the fact that wearing a veil is “optional”, i.e., the woman’s option, but if a woman wears a veil in a novus ordo parish, trust me, she will be treated like a leper for the most part. There is a strong undercurrent of peer pressure among women NOT to wear the veil. It took me a few years to get up the courage to wear one. The “progressives” in the parish don’t want to respect the woman’s right to make this decision for herself. They rail against being forced to wear a veil but bully women who wear veils by their own choice. Quite the double standard, especially for women who are so busy fighting for “freedom”. The only freedom they want is the freedom to force their opinions on their fellow churchwomen.
I know, not a charitable viewpoint, but I’ve formed this opinion after numerous attacks by other women.
That being said, I started veiling because it just didn’t feel right to be in front of the tabernacle uncovered. It bothered me more and more as time went on, especially at adoration. When I started veiling, I felt relieved.
Yes, it is rather sad if such venom is present. It’s ironic as you say how some people march under freedom’s banner but once in power or in the majority seek to limit the freedom they once fought for. I suppose we’re all vulnerable to inconsistency and can be opporesive if we are not careful
I am glad you have been able to stake out your own calim at freedom’s table, in the case the Altar of the Lord!
Thank you for your thoughtful post. Some of your points made me smile, and they seemed really well considered (I especially liked conclusion #3 which made me laugh) , and so I offer my own thoughts:
(which I also offer at my blog http://www.feminismthecatholicfword.blogspot.com)
The apostle Paul also says:” In Christ there is neither woman nor man.”.. Augustine tells us: “woman was not created from man’s head to rule over him or his feet to be ruled by him, but from his side as equal to him.”
I understand that wearing veils is a private devotional practice that may in fact be an effort to express humility.
However, it seems to me that women and men alike ought to be covering their heads – or neither at all. The standard set for women was also set at a time when the 1912 Catholic Encyclopedia suggested women should not be encouraged towards higher learning, because it was beyond their capabilities. Women were simply not afforded their right dignity, their equal value as Image of God, for a long time in the Church.
Finally, with the remarks at the end of Vatican II “As you know, the Church is proud to have glorified and liberated woman, and in the course of the centuries, in diversity of characters, to have brought into relief her basic equality with man. But the hour is coming, in fact has come, when the vocation of woman is being achieved in its fullness, the hour in which woman acquires in the world an influence, an effect and a power never hitherto achieved. That is why, at this moment when the human race is under-going so deep a transformation, women impregnated with the spirit of the Gospel can do so much to aid mankind in not falling. ” we see woman as John Paul II tells us “a person for her own sake”.
No longer is woman to be understood only in relationship to a husband, or as a secondary product of creation. No longer is woman to be bound under anitiquated customs that hinder her by covering her and keeping her from the freedom, say, to enter a church unless her head is covered (Kleenex, anyone?)
The deep transformation of Church needs to be visible. So while the church does not say women cannot be veiled, she also has embraced the logic that she no longer is on the earth as subordinate to any other creature. The veil may show submission, but it also suggests the need to cover the head simply by virtue of being a woman.
Have we still not realized the remarkable beauty of the body – of the face and head which show our individuality, our unique nature?
I think that women who wish to wear a veil need to ask themselves why – is this a sign to God or to others? And they also need to ask themselves what makes them more in need of a symbol of humility than their male counterparts? Because with the understanding we have of the equality of men and women, I see the veil in this day and age as just a few steps away from the burka.
Why – to be subservient to God. Yes, women are beautiful, and this is one of the reasons we should veil ourselves. I had a friend who used to reply when asked about it ‘yes, I am beautiful, and this is precisely why I veil – because He is much more beautiful than I.’
Perhaps another way to say it is ‘why not – why not veil for a month, then re-evaluate.’
It is far from the burka – veiling at a Catholic mass brings about many graces; those who haven’t veiled can’t understand.
Are men not beautiful too? Why do I need to “dress up” in order to be humble before God – is God really interested in the clothes or the veil that I am wearing? I think that the Creator and Ruler of the Cosmos is much more interested in what is going on in my heart when I come before him. I gave up “dressing up” quite some time ago now when after much reflection upon it I came to the conclusion that it was a link to the material element in the world that I wanted to ditch rather than hold onto. I don’t recall Christ dressing up as a sign of his humility. To say that “those who haven’t veiled can’t understand” is outrageous and insulting and is tantamount to saying that those who wear the veil understand their faith more than those who don’t, or that they receive greater graces than those who don’t, this in turn is a gross misunderstanding of faith and particularly of grace.
I think most of the women in these comments have said why. I tried to argue that males do have a sign of humility in the forbiddance of hats etc. I try to argue any way that the standard of humulity for both is what unites the norms here. SInce the matter is entirely a free choice, I hardly think we’re headed for burkas 🙂
I love hearing your thoughts on things Msgr. Pope! I haven’t worn a mantilla to Mass since Vatican II, but twice in the past two or three years, as I entered the church, I was suddenly struck with the terrible feeling that I had forgotten to put my veil on, and as I reached to feel for it on the top of my head, I realized that it was the 21st century and women stopped wearing veils to church a l-o-n-g time ago! But it was such a powerful feeling. When I mentioned it to my priest and asked him if it meant I was supposed to be covering my head at Mass, he assured me that was definitely not the case. I wonder hat you would have said.
I would have said the same. As I try to point out here, women are under no directive from the Church to cover their heads. THose who chose to do so, do so freely and for their own reasons. I think the tradition is beautiful but my personal opinion is not directive. You should feel free to do what suits you and never feel terrible that you have forgotten a veil since it is not required of you.
For a lady to wear a veil (or not to) says a great deal about them in many ways.
I need not go into details, as the other posts have covered much on the subject, but it is my opinion that a woman who would want to show honor to God would wear the veil. I cannot see reasons sufficient enough to justify not wearing one. Timeless traditions are slowly becoming the norm again, especially with the young.
Anything practiced and propagated enough on a positive basis, and that shows positive results, is probabally going to become the norm again. This is not only a social, but psychological truth, as well. We praise and honor God by our very actions and attitudes. Things are changing, slowly but surely, for the better in the Nuvo Ordo Masses, but have always been present in the Traditional Latin Mass. That we should learn again from that which already exists shows where we have been and the possibilities of where we are going. It is up to the faithful to either preserve their traditions or destroy them. Like everything we do, it is a choice.
Well, I want to be careful here NOT to suggest that women who do not wear a veil are somehow showing less honor. If individual women feel it helps them to show honor, fine, but lets not make judgments and rules when the Church does not. I think you are right that we will see more of veils in the future
I don’t think using a veil does anything to suggest modesty. That comes from how a person carries him/herself and the way clothes fit (and they don’t have to be dowdy to be modest). I find the concept of veils foreign to me from this culture – I don’t wear a hat either, except when it’s cold.
I find the idea from some of the comments that women should be veiled and men not kind of offensive. As you pointed out, there are no “real” arguments and it was only in canon law for a brief time. Also, I have short hair – and would be considered by many (all, I hope) to be modest so hair as a veil also is a little odd. What does that imply about women with short hair?
If someone wants to wear a mantilla, that’s a wonderful option, but I wouldn’t try to infer some deeper meaning by anyone. The concern would be making judgments on someone’s Catholicity based on an external like that, which unfortunately, I see too many people doing.
No offense intended from me Eileen, I hope that is clear. I also think that most of the commenters (with certain exceptions) have steered clear of the word “should” .
I often veil at Mass, usually a black one as it blends in more.
I began wearing it to show greater reverence to God. (“show” should not be interpreted to mean I wanted to draw attention to myself. Far from it!) It reminds me that I am in a holy place, it helps me to redirect my attention when my attention wanders, it reminds me to recognize who I am (dust) in the face of God, and it reminds me how important it is to die to myself in order to live for Him.
I’ve also noted that holy things and people are veiled throughout the Bible and in our churches, and that I, too, am called to be holy, even though I usually fail even in the attempt.
And further, the veil, in general, is a present sign that we are the Bride of Christ; the Church as a whole. It is why we veil children when they receive their First Holy Communion. There is a reason little girls look like Brides: they ARE! As are we all. Why, then, should all of us not veil ourselves if only as a reminder of our common identity as the Bride of Our Lord, whom we are receiving in an act of holy consummation, to bring the very life of Christ through ourselves and into the world where we live our daily lives?
There are times I choose not to veil, however. I work in a parish and know certain perceptions, some of which have been expressed here. I know that if I attend Mass at work and veil, it will cause a rift between myself and the people I am there to serve. Therefore, when I do wear it, it is a prudential decision.
I have other reasons I have not expressed here, but really don’t see the need to go on. I’ve pretty much made my point. Good topic, always an interesting discussion. 🙂
thanks. I like the link of the veil to bridal imagery. Women in their glory model the Church as bride
Your comment about the clergy in argument 2 is relevant. The clergy (or secular power) are sometimes called “angels” or even “gods” in the Bible, e.g., Ex. 22.28 “Thou shalt not speak ill of the gods, and the prince of thy people thou shalt not curse.”
Yes, so you think Paul is referring to the clergy when he says angels. I’ve read that too.
In most cultures, women cover their heads as a sign of humility and modesty. I didn’t know what it meant for Christans until I read the Bible and I am a new convert so I confess I do not know my Bible very well. But with daily readings and re-readings I will catch up.
But once I read the passage from St. Paul, I had to cover my head because it reminds me to do God’s will and to be obedient to my husband as well. And regarding submission to a husband — from the day I married him I have felt it in my heart and have tried to live accordingly. It’s not always easy, but he is a good man, deserving of his family’s love and respect.
So far, no one has asked me about this at church and I am relieved as I do not want to be percieved as someone who is drawing attention to herself. On the other hand, I wouldn’t mind educating our younger people about this, but I have much to learn myself first.
Thank you for your wonderful blog and thoughtful commentaries.
Thanks for reading and for your story.
Just wanted to mention that the custom is not so much about veiling as about *covering the head*, and usally that meant covering the head with a hat. “Back in the day”, women wore hats everywhere, even to the grocery store — it was part of being suitably dressed. If you look at photos and illustrations of Massgoers from the ’40’s and ’50’s, the women are generally wearing hats.
Lace veils weren’t used as often — until the ’60’s, when bouffant hairdos were in and hats were going out of style. The lace, you see, wouldn’t crush the carefully teased and lacquered hair!
As for “white for unmarried women, black for married women”, that rule was not universal; I think it had more to do with the color of the outfit, as in this photo of Jacqueline Kennedy in Easter 1963.
I’m all for women covering if they feel called to do so — it certainly speaks to the dignity of the occasion — and if they choose to cover using a lace veil, then more power to them. But covering is about covering, not about lace veils.
Yes, you are right that hats were more common in the forties and early 50s all the pictures from my parish confirm this. In fact a few posts early I actually put a picture of mass from 1950 at my parish and all the women are wearing hats. Thanks for the photo
If only the virtue of humility were as easy to acquire as placing a veil or covering on the head! To me it is not
indicative of anything except custom. If Mary were living on earth today I doubt she would trouble herself with
the nuisance of a veil ( unless where she lived it were customery). I recall, growing up in the 50’s (that is 1950’s) women would throw a kleenix on their head when making an un-planned “visit” to a Church. How inspiring was that? Talk about the spirit of the law! Anyway I don’t see the custom coming back in popularity any time soon. There surely are equally good if not even better ways to practice humility and as some have
stated here it might even cause negative feelings around them in Church. There used to be a
saying( not heard much today)” Don’t try to be holier than the Church” ( a paraphrase) There is much wisdom
in that expression…although it’s application might be much easier in these times. When in community prayer it
is less distracting to what is going on if we strive for a modicum of unity in our outward behavior…an outward
sign of unity reflecting the inner unity of being of one heart and one mind. I think this was what Ruth Anne was
trying to say. Let’s give her a break anyway and assume her good intentions.
“cause negative feelings”
adele, it is not the veil which causes negative feelings in others, but the dispositions of individuals which dispose them to that particular reaction which brings negative feelings in themselves.
Until wearing a veil is established an an ostensible symbol of protest or challenge (rather than what it has generally been), it will be the disposition of the reactor which “causes negative feelings”, not the veil. In order for the veil to take on this symbolic meaning, an identifiable group would have to use it in this way, as, e.g., rainbows have come to be used by some groups. Or the colors of a nation’s flag, e.g.
I don’t doubt that Ruth Ann had good intentions when she started to write. But she had a prejudice which it was good for her and everyone else that it be pointed out.
Unity with people who couldn’t care less about their faith is not something to aspire to. Unfortunately, a huge number of Catholics that go to Mass couldn’t care less about their faith. They reflect that in their lives, their opinions, their actions both at Mass and away from Mass, and their personal habits.
Am I suggesting that any woman who doesn’t wear a veil isn’t serious about their faith? No, I’m not. Repeat: No, I am not suggesting that.
I am saying that your argument that we should all just kinda fit in, and go along to get along has no weight with me when 50+% of Mass attending Catholics are pro-aborts. When 80% of Mass attending Catholics use contraception. When at many parishes, no one ever genuflects to the tabernacle, and people don’t even know where it is. I have no desire to be in unity with folks while they believe these things and do these things.
If they wish to become Catholic and act as Catholics and believe as Catholics, I am 100% for unity.
So my question for you is: Why should unity mean that people of traditional faith expressions change to accommodate those that have more modern expressions?
Why don’t you demand that all the people *not* genuflecting and *not* wearing veils become unified with those who do? You know, in the interest of avoiding distraction during community prayer.
It’s amazing how consistent it is. Liberals demand unity, yet always want someone else to change to get it. Huh.
Color me not convinced.
You seem to have inferred more from Adele’s than I did. She said, “When in community prayer it
is less distracting to what is going on if we strive for a modicum of unity in our outward behavior…an outward
sign of unity reflecting the inner unity of being of one heart and one mind.”
When I go to Mass, I must presume that the intentions of everyone there are at least as good, if not better, than mine. At the beginning of Mass there is a brief penitential prayer, which is a wonderful opportunity to admit before God and others that I am a sinner and to ask pardon. Imagine, when prayed with sincerity, the grace that enters those gathered for worship. That’s the whole idea of having that rite.
It’s beyond my ken to imagine folks are there who, in your words “couldn’t care less about their faith…” If that were true, why even make the effort to wake up, dress, and drive or walk to the church? Even that little bit of effort is a good thing—a step in the right direction at the very least.
Where do you get information like this:
“I am saying that your argument that we should all just kinda fit in, and go along to get along has no weight with me when 50+% of Mass attending Catholics are pro-aborts. When 80% of Mass attending Catholics use contraception. When at many parishes, no one ever genuflects to the tabernacle, and people don’t even know where it is. I have no desire to be in unity with folks while they believe these things and do these things.”
Adele did say or even imply, “go along to get along.”
Even if your information is correct, which I doubt, what is our role as practicing Catholics? Are we to shun all these imperfect, perhaps sinful Catholics? What about just giving good example? What about going after the lost sheep of our fold? I’m just trying to ponder what response the Gospel asks of us?
Yes, Adele, you are saying pretty much what I meant to convey earlier.
I’ve heard the “kleenex” stories! Funny.
If we read the entirety of Paul’s first letter to the Church in Corinth, that is, if we read it in context, we immediately see that he was responding to a specific situation, including answering some specific questions that had been put to him. That specific situation was the problem of divisions within the Corinthian Church, manifested in various ways.
So it is very curious to see that raising this topic has had the result of causing division and not a little rancor. That is exactly what Paul was trying to stop, to end the divisions, to end the factions.
In Corinth, one of the divisive problems was that of headcoverings. After discussing how he had tried to be all things to all people in order to bring about unity, Paul makes an attempt to instill a little bit of unity on the matter of covering one’s head. If every woman covered, whether they were rich with fancy hair-dos, or poor with simple hair, or otherwise, all were equal and one. Unity and not division — THAT was Paul’s main concern. He only mentions headcoverings in passing, and he doesn’t raise the issue with any of the other churches he wrote too; nor do any of the other Apostles make an issue of it. However, they all do make an issue of unity in the Church, of being one people.
We need to properly read the passage on headcoverings in context — in the context of the entire letter, in the context of the people and customs of historical Corinth, in the context of the entire New Testament, and especially in the context of the Gospels and in the context of Jesus Christ, who is Love Incarnate. If we do that, we see that the main emphasis here is on unity and ending divisions.
This passage comes after Paul writes about eating certain meat, saying that he was even give up meat, even though there is no prohibition against it, if it were to cause scandal to someone, even if it were an irrational scandal. Again, Paul wants to end division and bring about unity in the Church.
But is this discussion bringing about unity? Or has it caused disunity and factionalism? And has it resulted in some even taking pride in their “humility”?
There is no intrinsic or inherent meaning in a piece of cloth on one’s head, such that the wearing of same or the lack thereof, conveys nothing in and of itself. It only has that meaning which we might give to it. Some might give a headcovering the meaning of a sign of humility, but true humility comes from within, not from without. And there are ways to be humble other than covering one’s head. In any event, is it really any legitimate concern of ours what other people do or do not do?
Corrections (I need to proof read before I send) —
“If we read the entirety of Paul’s first letter to the Church in Corinth, that is, if we read the passage in headcoverings in context . . .”
“This passage comes after Paul writes about eating certain meat, saying that he was even willing give up meat . . .”
Thanks for your contributions here Bender. I will say though that I don’t sense a lot of rancor here, with certain exceptions. I am generally very pleased that most people admit is an option about which women are free.
Bender – thank you for bringing the issue of unity to the conversation. I have not finished reading all the posts and it was refresing to read your call to unity.
In describing the historical aspects of the veil, I am rather surprised that the original post contained no mention of headcovering as having originated from traditionally Jewish practices prevalent in St. Paul’s day. On his “Reverend Know-it-all” website, Rev. Richard T. Simon notes that Paul’s line of reason concerning veils “is very ‘proto-Talmudic,” and observes that “[a]mong orthodox Jews, women often cut their hair very short, almost shaved and then wear a wig, called a ‘sheitl . . . [t]he rabbis say this is because the Song of Songs, tells us in chapter 4, verse one and following, that a woman’s hair is one of her most seductive aspects.” Rev. Simon notes further that “in Numbers 5: 18 there is a reference to the uncovering of a woman’s head as humiliation.” See http://www.rev-know-it-all.com/2008/2008—09-21.html. Its quite an interesting read, and treats the subject from an angle I had never heard before. I encourage anyone to read it, and I wouldn’t mind the good Msgr.’s opinion on it, if he is so inclined.
As for me, I do not wear a veil precisely because I am so sick of the debate; I have trouble enough focusing at Mass with a two-year old on my lap. Moreover, I don’t need to consult Canon law to know that I have much bigger sins to address before the veil question becomes relevant.
Thanks for the lonk and I will try to read it. I did not explore the Jewish roots because my posts are already too long. However, I also wonder about the roots for two reasons: Paul is writing to a largely Gentile Church and also, in indicating that men have no covering he seems to divert from Jewish norms.
My parish is Novus Ordo, but there are some women, both young and old, who cover their heads to come to Mass. I make it a point if I should pass one while exiting to thank her for her reverence.
Encouragement is always a nice thing to give one another.
Someone once told me their response to why she veils is ‘yes I am beautiful, but not nearly as beautiful as God’.
‘…because of the angels…’ – I researched this and came to this conclusion – The angels all gather around the alter, they only know truth and light, and they are not happy with those who come unveiled, or with grave sins. The angels help us, and when we do not do good, they don’t help us, and/or report our lack or reverence for Jesus. The veil tells the angels that we are submissive to God.
As for women claiming we who veil want to draw attention to ourselves – they should try veiling for a month then see if they come to the same conclusion…it’s not easy, but all I can come up with is that it provides extra graces. I also have a problem with people who argue that veiling is no long customary – so the past 40 years
we could change a tradition of over 2000 years?? How did we break the custom in the first place?
As for me, I cover my head, as do my girls since they received first communion. We wear long scarves more than mantillas, as they cover better, and I can wrap them around my shoulders as well. Mantilla comes from the word ‘mantle’ (ie little mantle), which is what Mary wore. The Marian prayer, …cover me with the mantle of thy protection….’ is worth pondering. As a mother, my kids have wrapped up in the ends of my covering to be warm.
Thanks for sharing your insights and experience.
Adele says: “If Mary were living on earth today I doubt she would trouble herself with the nuisance of a veil (unless where she lived it were customary).” Adele, can you name on apparition in which Mary has not worn a veil? Please not there have been quite a few apparitions during the last century.
There is an observation that is missing from this discussion. We are speaking as though men’s hair and women’s hair mean the same thing to us, but they really do not. We are not comparing apples to apples. Here I appeal to your obvious, every day experience: is it not true that a woman’s hair involves the power of her sexuality? Is it not one way a woman makes herself appealing to members of the opposite sex? Whether you are a man or woman, what is your reaction when you see a woman with gorgeous hair? We usually think, “Wow! That woman is sexy!” And we really mean it. In this case we are not merely responding to her beauty; more than this, we are responding to her evocative sexuality.
To underscore the point, let’s take a slightly different example. Since she has been the subject of our discussion, let’s imagine an attractive woman wearing a veil on the way to Mass. As you see her walking into the church, you might think, “Wow, she is quite lovely.” You are still commenting interiorly on her beauty, but you are no longer responding to her sexual power. The differences between this woman and the one first mentioned will include, among other things, the way she is using her hair. You may also feel subtly more at ease with her, particularly if you are a man, and you may respect her more, no matter your sex, simply because she is not flagrantly displaying her sexuality like a peacock in mating season.
A woman’s hair has more sexual power than a man’s just as women generally have a greater share of sexual power than men. Therefore her hair has different meaning than his hair. Here again I need do nothing more than appeal to your obvious, every day experience. Open a fashion magazine or go to a bar and before many minutes have passed my assertion will be confirmed. Apples to apples? I don’t think so. And I suspect St. Paul understood this when he described a woman’s hair as her glory.
There is a time to express our sexuality and there is a time to hide it from view. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is eminently one of those latter times. And, might I add, it is a time when we should respect the need of others to attend to the Lord, rather than attend to your attractive haircut.
I think there is a lot of truth in your remarks. A woman;s hair can have a great affect on a man. Again, though, we as men need to allow women some leeway and not “require” them to excessively cover up. As you say, there are different types of beauty and they have different effects. We discussed some of this in a couple of blogs on modesty some weeks back. I appreciate your contribution here.
I was in grade school when we stopped wearing veils. This was also the time after VII that our religious education was, well, inadequate and confused, even in a Catholic school. I never learned about the veil being a sign of modesty, and I never had a mantilla which ‘blocked out’ distractions during Mass. We had the little beanies, or a piece of kleenex if we forgot our veils. Basically, there was nothing holy about wearing a veil, it was just some rule that we had to obey. Adn, the beanie was UGLY, not at all cool.
I have not worn a veil since then, but am quite attracted to the idea. Someone above mentioned that American women are not willing to humble themselves….well, this is a problem since America is not a very humble culture. But it can be done. It is a wonderful opportunity to shut out the distractions of everyday life for a bit of time spent with God. Yes, many American women are self conscious and a bit vain, so PRETTY veils would help.
I would be happy to wear a veil again, but as other s have mentioned, I don’t wish to draw attention to myself. Hats would be fine, too. But please, make those little round beanie veils go away.
Thanks for this reflection and for the story you share. I too remember the beanies. I guess when something is about to disappear the observances can get rather perfunctory and become just some rule. Luckily now, women can choose to wear it for personal reasons rather than jsut because it is a rule.
Rob…you say unity at Mass is not something to which we should aspire? If we cannot find it in our hearts and
minds at Mass where do you suppose you will find unity? As for the Catholics who follow their own personal
truths instead of being obedient to the magisterium they have already separated themselves but when at the
Holy Sacrifice of the Mass our hearts and minds should strive to unite ourselves and our prayers to those of
the priest. We are reminded of this again and again throughout the liturgy. All I was saying was that the outward
signs of veiling and genuflecting are never inappropriate…but could be an ocassion for distraction ( since it is
uncommon to see in most churches) for some…while an inspiration for others…we cannot control the thoughts
and minds of those around us…just our own. Personally I do not like to draw attention to myself and therefore
I would probably not go back to the veil..or a hat. I do think it is somewhat chauvenistic for men to say that
women SHOULD veil. This was not what the Monseignor meant when he stated his preference…I think if I
understood correctly he would leave it to the individual woman. I think it is also presumptious to say that a
woman who veils ( look how we are using it as a verb now) is more virtuous that one who does not….there is
a lot more to virtue and holiness than wearing or not wearing head covering. As someone said here how many
steps is it from the veil to the burqua….from some of the male comments here I would believe not too far. Now
see Monseignor what a conundrum you have posed with this topic…to veil or not to veil? Do we really have need
for any more division in our church…how silly is all this anyway. If you want to veil…go for it..it’s a free country
still…and no one is going to stop you from expressing whatever it is you think the veil does….but let’s not use
it to judge the holiness of each other…I think we arrive in Heaven buck- naked don’t we? Now there’s a topic
to toss around sometime!
🙂 I think your position is generally well stated. Lets not use the veil to be a better/worse fight. I am smiling though because I think the Lord will provide us with a long white robe to wear in heven, at least accroding to the Book of Rev. Now we may be butt naked under robe though ! 🙂
What do the early Fathers have to say on this matter. I would also be very interested in St Thomas position as I believe he wrote a commentary.
Hmmm…. I’ll have to investigate.
I find the comments which speak of a “call” to veil most interesting. I can identify with that because I myself have felt very strongly called to sing(as cantor) and to teach. Does the fact that I don’t feel called to veil excuse me from doing so? And how is that different from those who feel no call to sing or teach?
I remember veiling when I was very little, in the ’60s, and wearing Easter hats until I was probably 10 or so. If the Church mandated head coverings again I would submit. But someone way up in the comments made a good point- its ridiculous to argue about head coverings when we can’t even agree on what is appropriate attire for Mass.
To answer my own question- we all have the obligation to teach, and we are all supposed to raise our voices in sung prayer. But we are not obligated to practice all forms of piety and shouldn’t be made to feel less than devout for not wanting to even try it out.
More power to those who veil… But the rest of us are okay, too.
Yes, the word “call” seems to get at the fact that many of the women here are saying this what they think is right for them but it might not be something others would sense they should do and that is OK.
I heard a lot of people speaking of using a veil (or a hat) as a “call” as well. I myself have not experienced that call; in fact, a few years ago I wrote about it here:
The idea of that post was simple–if a women felt “called” to cover her head at Mass, she might choose a simple, unattractive piece of plain fabric, or a vintage scarf that is not entirely attractive, and use that to cover her head for a while. In this way she could be certain that the call was really to cover her head before the Lord, and not to indulge in a bit of feminine vanity or a less-pardonable sort of pride (e.g., pride at being the proper sort of small-o orthodox Catholic, etc.).
Since I have yet to pass the “ugly babushka test” myself, and know perfectly well that any veil-wearing (as opposed to an unobtrusive hat, say) on my part would possibly be tainted with a desire to make a statement of sorts about the present state of the liturgy, etc.–I still do not feel called to wear a veil.
If a woman is considering the idea of a headcovering, I might suggest the plain fabric scarf or even a very simple hat at first. Indulgence in a swath of lovely feminine lace could, of course, follow, but she could be certain about her call to adopt this voluntary act of penance before she makes that purchase.
Well the only thing I wonder Erin, is frumpy or tattered or raggedy really the point. I think it is possible to take humility to the extreme. For example, what if I decided to walk into mass with faded and torn blue jeans? This might be modest, unassuming and identified with the poor but does it give glroy to God? A lot of the comments have talked about modesty. But modesty doesn’t have to mean tattered or plain. Again, I keep using the phrase simple elegance. A simple veil (lace or not) that is attractive but similar to what others wear seems OK to me. Modesty is not the only value at work here. For those who choose to wear the veil, Adoring the Lord in holy attire is also important.
David…yes, I believe Mary is always wearing a veil when she has appeared but that is how she and other
women at her time on earth dressed…she also appears to have native characteristics similar to those
having the apparition….thus she appears Asian to the Asiatics, Spanish to the Mexicans, etc..there is
something very endearing in this to me. Does this mean I should wear a veil to Mass? Maybe you should
wear a long dress since Jesus too appears dressed that way in His various appearances. All this concern
with externals seems just the kind of thing Jesus was warning us about so many times while He was among
us. Dressing appropriately for Mass is a challenge for today’s church-goer it would seem for both men and
women who often look more like they were going to the beach…everything from shorts to halter tops. After
Mass my husband and I often have breakfast at the local dinner located across from the Methodist church.
We have often remarked how much more appropriately dressed they appear entering their church than
many of our own fellow worshippers! We are located in a tourist town where in the summer the problem
really escalates. There are dining rooms in town where some of the Catholic worshippers would not be allowed to enter dressed similarly. Women’s un-covered heads are not the issue…but men in
shorts and women in halter or strapless tops give scandal almost. We have tried bringing up the issue
with our various pastors but they all seem hesitant to speak to the matter…afraid I quess of offending not
the Lord but the people. One commented, “well, at least they show up!”
Amazing, one person disagrees and everyone jumps on her. Ruth Ann brings out a valid point. Read Scripture from the perspective of the times in which the authors lived. Women wore head dress because that was Jewish custom. They also drew water from a well and offered live sacrifices of turtle doves…not many Catholics doing those things these days. So are we holding on to fond memories of the past, or acting out of conviction. As Ruth Ann’s point brings out the passage from Matthew in which the Pharisee composed a lengthy prayer on how he was better than the tax collector. Perhaps we should be more like the tax collector in that parable and quietly pray without others noticing: “Lord forgive me, a sinner.” If you want to wear veils, go for it–if it is a meaningful expression of your faith. Please remember that it may not be a meaningful expression for the majority of us.
Thank you Ruth Ann for expressing your opinion.
Well not everybody jumped on her. In fact not even most jumped on her. Just a few.
Dan, that’s a great point about “If you want to wear veils, &c.”
The reason why I for one was critical of Ruth Ann’s comments was that that was precisely what she was *not* saying. She was saying that because it offended her, on the grounds that (as she prejudged) they were being ostentatious or prideful, other’s should not wear them. Because of this your particular terms of defense of her comment do not defend her actual comment, but rather the more charitable spirit that we reactors to her comment were trying to urge.
She was not saying, “If you want to wear veils, go for it.” She was saying, “You shouldn’t wear veils because I think you think you’re better than other people when you wear a veil.” She was not saying, “If it is a meaningful expression of your faith.” She was saying “I know it’s not a meaningful expression of your faith.”
The funniest thing about all this is that if my wife and I went to Mass at Ruth Ann’s parish as new members, and we met her there on our first day living in her neighborhood, I bet Ruth Ann would be cordial to my wife, and I bet we would be good neighbors and friends. I think we start to fight against the phantoms of bitter feeling that then become real bitter feelings when we insist that people “remember that it may not be a meaningful expression for me,” when that person has given no indication that he isn’t already doing so. Why bring it into the conversation when there’s no evidence of it yet!
If I saw my son playing in the front yard, I wouldn’t walk up to him and say, “Make sure you don’t throw your ball at the neighbor’s window, because that would be bad.” The thought hasn’t crossed his mind! I love my son and I wouldn’t presume that malice is brimming just under the surface of his innocent play.
And I don’t expect Ruth Ann would presume that about my wife if she met us in Mass.
Sorry, but you and others read way too much into my initial comments here. Good grief! Little did I know when I wrote that I must be concerned about what I didn’t say. This has been for me a good exercise in finding out how one’s words can be interpreted in ways I would never have guessed possible. Better to say nothing, perhaps??? That will be the day!
Dear Ruth Ann,
Here’s what you actually said:
“When I see women wearing hats or veils in church now, I feel as if they are calling attention to themselves, which really is not humble. I feel the same way when I see people genuflect before receiving communion. It’s another way to get attention.”
This is not “interpretation” and my response to it had nothing to do with what you “didn’t say”. It was precisely what you *did* say that I responded to, and nothing else. I never read anything extraneous into it, and I never presumed any malice. I repeat: I never “read way too much into [your] initial comments”; I never ready *anything into* them. I simply read them themselves, and responded to them themselves.
This is not an exercise in finding out how your words can be interpreted. It’s an exercise in being aware of what they mean at face value. Don’t put the responsibility of their face value an “interpreter”.
I don’t think that you must be concerned with what you don’t say. The very reason why I responded was because I thought you should be more concerned with what you *do* say.
This was an informative blog, Msgr. And it took me all night (it’s past 1 AM) to read all the comments.
I was on a recent trip to the Holy Land and there were so many women veiled. I liked it very much but would not dare do it in my parish. However, I do attend another church daily for Eucharistic Adoration and feel very comfortable wearing a veil there, as do a few others. There is an FSSP church not too far from here and there it is required. Maybe one day I’ll muster enough courage to venture to a very early Mass in my parish.
“I dare not do it in my parish”
Hmm….You are free Esiul. Free….wear it or don’t wear it but don’t let anyone take your freedom in this away.
That right there is the difference between the pro-veil and anti-veil sentiments on this website. The pro-veil people are concerned with their own personal choice, the anti-veil people are concerned with the choices of others.
I think it’s too long now that American culture has allowed the terms “progressive” and “liberal” to coincide. The categories are divorced in reality. Only lack of courage on the one hand, and unexamined life on the other, will sustain that cleavage. Mais c’est la vie.
Dear Msgr. Charles Pope:
May I share my experience with adopting the practice of wearing a veil? Being a convert to the church I find I am discovering many treasures of our faith. Several factors led me to accepting humbly this mantle of Mary. That is the sense in which I wear this veil. I’ve sought Mary’s intercession, instruction and protection. Mary wore a veil. If it’s good enough for the Mother of God, it’s good enough for me! Seriously though, after undergoing the De Montfort consecration to Mary, I felt led to enter the school of Mary for my discipleship to our Lord. I must admit at times the veil felt more like a bridle on a horse, rather than some ornament of obedience. Once during a time of receiving holy communion before the tabernacle I FELT like a bride approaching the bridegroom. That experience has stayed with me and wearing a veil is a physical reminder of my position as a bride to Christ. It serves as a daily reminder that I am a daughter of the Most High God. Wearing a veil makes present to me (and to others) that I am a cherished daughter of the Most High God. Think about it, in every area of daily life my dignity is usually not recognized but at church, before God, I am elevated from the “everyday” world to the reality of the “spiritual”. I find I need to be reminded of what is important, real and everlasting. It is my hope to inspire others in my parish to return to wearing a veil. At the very least to reflect on the idea of the veil.
I can fully accept the argument from humility as long as it applies to men also as your presentation appropriately does so Msgr. Women in general do spend a lot of time “doing” their hair and the purpose behind it is to look as “pretty” as possible. This of course is a pointless activity before God and in fact could be considered of itself quite sinful because the focus of the action becomes more important than God Himself if it is done in order to go to Mass. HOWEVER, hell itself will freeze over before I agree to be submissive to my husband or to any man. Woman was created from the SIDE of the first man (Adam being a generic term) as John Paul II is at great pains to point out in his Theology of the Body, not from the head or the foot. Woman is man’s equal and his helper and soul-mate. No one will ever convince me to wear a veil in order to acknowledge submission to man, woman was not created in the image of man but in the image of God in exactly the same way that man was, and in fact through the beauty of Motherhood participates in the act of creation in the way that a man never can, and so in many ways, she holds the hand of God. Of course this does not put her above man either. If one wants to understand the difference between men and women then read JP II’s Theology of Body and that will avoid anyone getting hot under the collar over potential sexual discrimation. Phew, that off my chest, I actually was very disappointed as a girl when I couldn’t wear a mantilla like my Mum used to, simply because the women looked so mysterious and enchanting. By the time I was old enough they had disappeared from sight.
Yes, the logic I used in the original article was that since the veil was a matter of custom women could see it’s meaning in other ways than as a symbol of submission to a husband. Hence other meanings can be attributed to it such as Barabara has done (Mantle of Mary) and others: humility, modesty, prayer veil, bride of Chirst etc.
Thanks Barbara for your testimony. About it being a mantle of Mary is yet another way to understand the veil for those who choose to wear it.
I don’t know the precise appearance of Jesus clothes, but it seems they were of a beauty enough that the soldiers cast lots for the them at His death.
Yes, modest doesn’t have to mean tattered or old.
Please forgive me if I am repeating anyone, but I wanted to throw in my two cents, and reading through all the replies this time is taking quite a while!
It seems to me that part of the dilemma here is that there are two viewpoints that are both valid. There are values that seem to in tension with one another. We come to Mass to worship God and give Him Glory, and so our focus should be on him, not on eachother. But then what is the difference between Mass and individual sacrifice and prayer? Is not part of the point of Mass that there is an intrinsic difference between individual and community prayer? So the people around us should be important, and we should pay attention to them.
It can seem to those of us who go out of our way Not to call attention to ourselves that those who make outward dispays of piety are trying to call attention to themselves or push an agenda. But those same people may have in their hearts the intention of striving for modesty. Can’t we agree that for us to be Charitable to those around us we should assume good intentions? I can see from reading some of the replies here that some of the women who cover their heads at Mass do so because it helps them remain prayerful and reverent. Some other women don’t feel the need for that aid (although perhaps they should give it a try just to see what it does for them). Part of the glory of coming together as a community is the sharing of what we all hold sacred, but part of it is experiencing the beauty of our diversity.
Yes assuming good intnetions is good advice. Thanks!
The pro-veil people are concerned with their own personal choice, the anti-veil people are concerned with the choices of others.
My observation, beyond noting that there ARE divisions here, is that the “pro-veil people” are as concerned with what others do or do not do as are the “anti-veil people,” if not more so. I note very few comments conceding that non-head-covered women can be just as humble and devout as the head-coverers.
Yes, the evidence mounts Bender, some of the divisions have become more pronounced. Too bad about something that’s an option
Yes, Bender, you “note very few comments conceding that non-head-covered women can be just as humble &c.” But what is also very few (in fact nonexistent), which you do not note, is that there are some people here who are respecting freedom of others, those whom I recklessly labeled “pro-veil”, and those people, while they are not “conceding that non-head-covered women can be just as humble and devout”, yet neither are they claiming that non-head-covering women are being prideful.
On the other hand, the group which I recklessly labeled “anti-veil” is making positive claims to the contrary (in addition to failing to concede what you want everyone to concede.
It was reckless of me to use those labels, I think, because they imply division (and encourage it). I regret that mistake.
I never really understood this supposed debate.
If you wanna wear one, wear one.
If you don’t, don’t.
God knows your heart — He knows if you’re wearing it to seek personal attention or to “show up” or seem superior to other women, or if you’re wearing it as an action that sincerely supports your spiritual growth.
As someone who grew up when we had to wear them and was happy to not have to bother anymore when we didn’t, and as someone who has always lived in large urban parishes, I’ve attended Masses where all women from the tiniest girl to the oldest biddy wore them, where no one wore them, where it’s an ethnic/cultural thing in which most of the women from one particular ethnic group dominating the parish wears them but no one else, where it’s just a handful of twenty-somethings donning Amish-looking clothing and wearhing them very, very self-consciously, looking all around them during Mass just hoping beyond hope someone would notice, where it’s one or two ancient old ladies still wearing them very unself-consciously and naturally, and so forth.
I really don’t get it — maybe it seems really exotic and romantic to those who didn’t grow up with it, or maybe it seems oppressive to others, but it’s just a personal choice, like which saint you feel drawn to, or which devotion, or whatever. No one really cares, and if they do, so what? That’s on them, not on you.
Ah! You thing some of us a strange lot do you?
You are right, it is just a personal choice.
You show your hand however when you describe the 20 somethings as wearing Amish clothing and wearing veils self conciosuly looking around hoping someone will notice. Your contempt really comes through. And how you can know this about their inner motives is interesting. Perhaps you have a special ability to read motives?
Find a place in your heart for your sisters Starsdancing
I have thought about veiling on and off over the years. But I always come back to the same issues so many have pointed out in this thread….. While I personally love seeing women veiled at Mass and think of doing it, at the same time, my large family already calls too much attention (just by walking in and taking up a whole pew w/ our large mixed up multicolored family) and I want to be a draw to people (you know, JPII, salt/light…) not in any way offputing. So in our parish not covering is the standard, w/ a few lovely exceptions, and I want to not be off putting, but instead be like others so we can find common ground (not always easy w/ our family either). So I dress nicely for Mass, modestly, and try to train my kids to do the same. Now, if most in our parish covered, I’d do it in a minute! But yeah, that whole ‘not standing out” thing is a big deal.
Yes, there is some charity in conforming to the general practice in such matters. For example the Bishops have often reminded that the posture for Holy Communion should be generally uniform though this does not absolutely take away one’s right to kneel, nevertheless uniformity is also a goal to be considered.
Actually, that was a recent and real situation and I wasn’t the only one who rolled her eyes at it.
As the mother of five adult children and someone who has spent enough time in classrooms and coaching, I’m pretty good at reading the behavior of young adults, and I am familiar with young adults doing something they think is so radical and makes them somehow cooler than the grown-ups and hoping they’ll be noticed. This was one of those situations. I didn’t feel contempt. I was amused, and forgot about it until reading this post. I merely thought them young and silly and a little obvious.
Kind of like how you think all sorts of things about me now, based on your interpretation of my post.
The ENTIRE point of my post was that I don’t think any of you “strange”. I’ve lived through both sides of this issue, and pretty much seen it all and I do not get what all the fuss is about, why all the hand-wringing and angst. If it’s something a woman feels is the right thing for her to do, then she should do it. How does that equate to me thinking you’re strange? That’s some odd logic.
I also find it interesting how you posted my response about five hours before your response to it.
It was an honest answer, meant to be supportive, but if you need to judge, based on God knows what went on during those five hours, that, as I said, is on YOU and the other parties involved, not me. And I genuinely mean that bit about God knowing, because He does.
So you have a lovely day, Msgr. I know I will.
I also grew up in the era where women had to wear hats in Chyrch. Easter was th time where EVERYONE got a new Easter bonnet. Shopping for a new hat was one of the highlights of Easter, not the preparation for the Resurrection of our Savior. We oohed and awed at each other’s head covering. Some of the styles were beautiful and tasteful, while some were downright outlandish. Fruit on bonnets, enough feathers to fly, veils covering the face, some not, and some ready to fly off at the slightest breeze. I also remember covering my head with a kleenex when a hat was not available. We female students at a catholic school even borrowed the boys’ baseball caps if we had no other choice. Sometimes the head coverings were more of a source of vanity than hair was. God bless us all.
Thanks for the interesting memories!
I usually wear a veil at Latin Mass and not at ordinary form Mass. I figure: “when in this particular part of Rome, do as these particular Romans do.” I like covering my head, but if I was the only woman in the church with my head covered, I’d spend all of Mass thinking about my head covering and wondering if people think that’s weird or if I look humble to them or whatever. Usually I like to spend Mass thinking about more important things, like the Mass.
I know some girls at my college who started wearing veils to our regular OF Mass, and a lot of people thought it was “holier-than-thou” pretentious.
Thank you, Msgr. Pope, for starting this discussion. I started wearing the veil a few years ago, even though I felt embarrassed, self-conscious, afraid of appearing holier-than-thou, etc. I just felt a strong pull to do so. Since that time, I have noticed an increase in this topic being discussed. I think more and more women are feeling a nudge to veil. It is such a beautiful tradition, and it makes me feel like I am in a special, prayerful place — under that veil. (Despite the flip-flops and bongos in the church choir!)
When I ordered my first veil on ebay, the seller included a booklet about the veil with my order. (Here is a link to the pdf file of that booklet: http://www.christianfamilyoutreach.com/pamphlets/theveil.pdf) Notice on page 3 under the heading “Words” the commentary about NOW — the National Organization of Women. They encouraged “veil burnings.” to protest the Church’s “discrimination” against women.
I am a former feminist. (Feminism encouraged me to go to work and drop my kids off with somebody else. The kids didn’t matter much. The Feminist Cause was the important thing. That was the first thing that made me leave.) I became so fed up with feminists trying to tell me how to live my life, how to be more like a man. Now, I wear my veil with PRIDE. I love my husband with pride. I raise my 6 children with love. And I couldn’t care less what NOW thinks about me.
I believe that the view of “feminism” is often colored by the movement’s wacko fringes. I don’t think that feminism is wholly without merit.
When my grandmother was born in the 1910s, women did not have the right to vote. Thank God for “feminists” who advocated for women to have the right to choose those who represent their communities at the local, state, and federal level. Many of the legal protections we take for granted today came from legislation passed by representatives accountable to female constituants.
When my mother entered the workforce in the 1950s, the career options available to her included Secretary, Teacher or Nurse. “Feminism” empowered women to pursue vocations that matched their talents and interests. I have great respect for women who choose rearing children as their vocation, but not everyone can walk the same path.
When I was a teen, girls were not permitted to serve at the altar with their brothers (a restriction, BTW, that many women over 40 still resent). How is it that I see girls assisting priests during Mass? Could it be that “feminism” encouraged the Church to find more ways to engage women in the life of their parishes?
While women and men have different gifts, and different roles, they have the same value in the eyes of God. Some “feminists” unfortunately can’t see this, but they shouldn’t be disparaged as a whole.
I agree with your post until you embrace the girl altar servers. The boys and men in our church were robbed of a special fraternity when the job could be easily replaced with a girl. The special ability of a group of boys to encourage each other in their faith and to possibly make it their calling was lost when girls appeared on the altar. Yes, I’m sure there was a decline in boys who wanted to do the job, but the male bonding atmosphere was being fostered less and less as people became more and more afraid of children and adults together. How did girls help? They filled a gap instead of dealing with the problem effectively. Now boys have no interest in serving because it is a “girl” thing and therefore few of them have an avenue to explore the manly art of priesthood.
My Latin Mass Community has a large group of boys who jockey for the opportunity to serve merely because they get guy time together for bonding in an atmosphere of faith and manly service.
Is it good to have the girls on the altar? I say no. Not because they CAN and WILL do the job, but because we NEED the boys to love their faith to be wonderful priests or holy parents. That WON’T happen if they don’t get the experience without having to compete with girls.
Patty, I am a “veiler”, and have an odd feeling about female altar servers. However, I am okay with female lectrors, and have been asked to join in this ministry. We have female communion ministers, and I would value your opinion on that role.. (I have decided that being a communion minister is NOT for me. I understand that other women feel comfortable wih this role and think it is wonderful that they feel called by God to do thus, but I cannot, just as I cannot receive communion in the hand.) I feel no ill-will toward these women, just as I feel that women who do not veil are no less reverent than I am, but there is something in it that feels wrong. I have no idea why I think it’s okay to be a lector, but not an altar server or communion minister. Thanks for your thoughts!
The Greek word “katakalupto” is used to denote the covering mentioned in Scripture and according to my understanding of it, it translates as a veiling. Thank you so much for discussing this topic. God bless you and your ministry.
This morning at my Lutheran church, because of this post I took note of the number of women I saw wearing hats:
There were, however, a lot of people wearing red in honor of Pentacost (sp?). My husband, despite my instructions, was not one of them. He DOES have lots of red ties…
Dear Monsignor, and fellow-readers,
I would like to take up some matters related to men, if anyone can shed light on them:
1. What, if anything, is 1 Cor. 11:3-16 known – or thought – to have to do with (a.) 2 Cor. 8:7-18, and (b.) the tallit (assuming it was common in the diaspora)?
2. What do brothers (and priors, and abbots, et al.) in various orders with cowled habits do during the Offices, and the Eucharist, and does it vary depending on their liturgical function?
3. The little 14th-century ‘pleurant’ statues sculpted by Claus Sluter for the tomb of the Duke of Burgundy in Dijon have got me wondering: are all of the wonderfully cowled or hooded robes in fact habits of various orders, or did some laymen just dress like that, then? In these often maniacally culturally ‘uniformitarian’ and ‘fashion-conformistic’ times, it would be marvellous to see some laymen going about quite licitly looking like ‘pleurants’, with faces impenetrably shaded deep in hoods, just as some Scots wear kilts (though not on a daily basis), and some fellow-citizens or visitors from non-European cultures splendid caftans (or whatever the various technical names, unknown to me, may be).
Wearing a veil is something I’ve wanted to do for a while but haven’t been able to understand a reason to do it. I know some women are hesitant to wear one because they are concerned about their own temptation to attract attention but I’m the opposite….I’d be the one hiding and embarrassed. I have not wanted embarrassment to be a reason I didn’t wear one but I likewise couldn’t understand a reason why I would wear one. I had someone once point out to me that all the holiest things are the veiled ones. In the Old Testament, the inner most part of the temple was veiled and even now the Tabernacle is veiled, and even the altar is covered.
I appreciate the idea that a woman’s hair is her glory, and I have long hair, but with a 4 year old, a 2 year old and an 11 month old, I’m lucky if my hair is brushed. I don’t think of it as glorifying much. But I loved in the video where it references the body as a temple of the Holy Spirit. In this light, the veil would be not only a form of modesty and humility before God, but also a covering for the holy temple that is my body, that contains His precious Eucharist, and that welcomes His precious life in new children. This is a reason I can understand that, indeed, does honor women. Thanks so much for posting this!
The submission to a man is derived from submission to God. It’s not so much about the man himself as it is the role he plays in the family–the man signifies Christ, the woman his Bride the Church, children the fruit of the love between the two. Rarely is a man a perfect example of this, as a woman is rarely a perfect example…but honestly, I connect more with the veil as an indication of how I embody the Church, who is the Bride of Christ. The Mass is the wedding banquet of Christ and his Bride, and because I specifically embody the Church, more so than the man does, I find it fitting that I wear a veil–a hallmark of a bride. Also, one usually only veils what is holy: emphasizing, then, that rather than being inferior (to men–as some would have us think), our bodies are holy temples which in a special way recall the Church as Bride.
I think this can be a pretty heated topic–plenty of women have somewhat sour memories of veiling and would rather not go back to it. I myself am a young woman of 23, and I began veiling at 19–not because it was something “radical” or whatever. I struggled with the idea of it for a long time; I felt God calling me to begin veiling but still had a lot of issues to work through. I thought people would find me distracting, or see me as “holier-than-thou,” or that it would make me prideful. Sometimes these things did happen, but in the end I realized that I couldn’t ignore what God compelled me to do because of my own fears.
However–I don’t necessarily think that this is something that EVERY WOMAN EVER should do. If that were the case, it would be brought back into canon law. Until the Church speaks to say that all women must veil, I won’t say it. But I have found a multitude of spiritual benefits to veiling, and despite logistical issues, and issues with pride or social perception, I really love it, and find it to be something that brings me closer to my Bridegroom.
Interesting topic, Msgr Pope. My wife, a Catholic of a year and one month’s standing has purchased an Mantilla to wear to Mass. She did this without consulting me, though I approve. Unfortunately I do not know the reason for her decision.
Forgive me if I am repeating something someone has already said… As Monsignor pointed out, for those of us attached to the Extraordinary Form of Holy Mass, seeing women wearing veils is very commonplace. In fact, in many aspects of this traditional form of worship, the use of a veil is central. The tabernacle and the ciborium are veiled whenever the Blessed Sacrament is present. When not in use, the chalice is covered with a chalice veil. The altar itself is covered not once, but three times. And that’s just to name a few examples.
In short, that which is held sacred and beautiful is veiled. How wonderful would it be if society were to once again hold femininity as sacred and beautiful?
“In short, that which is held sacred and beautiful is veiled. How wonderful would it be if society were to once again hold femininity as sacred and beautiful?” Amen! Well said!
I learned to start wearing a chapel veil from observing other girls at Catholic college. I worked myslef up finally to ask one of them why she did and she used a phrase which I haven’t heard before, “modesty veil”: “Modesty isn’t just about ‘no one wants to see that'” basically expressing the ‘Woman’s hair is her glory’ idea in a different way.
When a friend started taking me to the Traditional Mass I was happy to borrow a veil from her because it was the right thing to do there. But everything I read said that you wear a veil because Jesus is there and because Mass is going on, not just because it’s the Traditional Mass. I flitted through some struggles at that time with how to understand the New Mass (which, I was learning, was made by cutting many pieces out of the Traditional Mass and adding some other random things) and in that way, wearing a veil there too was actually an affirmation: This is also Mass!
Very interesting read. I was catholic and converted to Islam. I have embraced my veil, not because as an authority to man, because Islam believes man and women were created for each other and are equal. (created from his rib becuase she is not above him or below him, but his partner and they are protectors over each other) But for God. I want to be modest and pious. Even the most beautiful pearl is covered. I feel like I am following the greatest women God created, Mary. I like not wasting time on hair and make up, but praising and worshiping God. Is this not why we were created, for his Glory? Regardless of religion, I did enjoy this and found it interesting, thank you Msgr Pope.
I believe men and women are created equal, yet have different roles, abilities and interests. This is nothing to be looked down apon, for it helps us help our spouses and make a fulfilling committment and uphold the laws of God Almighty.
God Bless you all with Mercy and Peace,
It seems to me that women should were veils as instructed by St. Paul simply for the reason it offends angels, who haven’t gone away.
My daughter and I have been wearing veils at a Novus Ordo parish for the last 6 months. It unfortunately isn’t something that I feel fully comfortable with. We’d been several times to a Latin Mass Parish that is too far away for us to attend regularly. My H and my understanding is that Christ is present in the Tabernacle and that women are to to wear veils in respect to Our Lord. The fact that women wore headcoverings for thousands of years (and loose, flowing robes or dresses that long as well) seemed to me to be fairly convincing that according to Tradition, this was the preferred attire.
Having said that…the New Mass is completely different than the Tridentine. There doesn’t seem to been any reverance for Our Lord, and while I’m taking it on Faith and the teaching of the Church that the Real Presence does still exist in this place …. in reality, I feel foolish wearing a veil in the midst of tee shirts and shorts, mini skirts and flip flops.
I’m not better than anyone else …. but my attire and veil set me apart in a way that I don’t personally think is endearing me to anyone … they just think we’re ‘weird.’
nice… this is article i am looking for the whole time.. thanks buddy
I don’t think veils are necessary to gain holiness. However, they make a person appear to be holy. For some, the external does matter greatly. Latin does matter to them because it sounds holy even though they may not understand the words. And if the congregation is doing something else because they don’t really know what is being said, than what good is that?
What matters is that a person is dressed not to attract attention but to blend in, to not be a distraction, that all focus is on Christ and that all attention is led there. If a women’s head being uncovered is a distraction, I would agree, however, it is not to me. All that matters is Christ, not my neighbor’s head being covered in a veil. And I love to talk to Christ in a language that I understand and to hear a language that I understand. For all prayers are the most powerful when it comes from the heart.
The movement toward the Latin mass is the exact opposite extreme from the “entertainment” suffered in the English masses to the “entertainment” of the look of sacred — simply becuase it is spoken in a mysterious langugage it is better, it appears to be holy, even though most don’t even know what is being said. Our Lady says that the most powerful prayers are the ones from the heart. How then can one pray if they don’t even know what they are saying?
I have studied Latin for 2 1/2 years, I pre-read the Mass readings, and I read the Missal when I can’t understand. I do not chose to attend the Traditional Mass because I like a “mysterious” language. I prefer the Latin Mass because only there have I found a Mass that feeds me enough to see my prayer life blossom. When I enter the darkened church before Mass begins, my whole body relaxes, and I anticipate spending blessed time with Jesus in a special way that will fill me with the grace I need to go out into the world and follow Christ. Your assumption that the people at a Latin Mass don’t know what they are saying is false in my experience, as is the idea that “the congregation is doing something else.” Like any other Mass, there are well-celebrated ones and poorly-celebrated ones, so if you have actually been to a Latin Mass and seen this behavior firsthand, I would say you have assisted at a poorly-celebrated one. I suspect, however, that you have yet to go to the Extraordinary Form Mass. Try it some time! You might like it! And if you don’t, that’s fine, too, but please don’t assume that those who do are working from the wrong motives.
I was wondering about wearing a head covering all day when in public. Are there any Catholic women who do that? I know Muslim women and Jewish woman do, why not Catholics?
I also want to thank you Msgr for this blog, it gave me a new perspective on the veil, and I love the idea of the “Mantel of Mary”.
I am inclined to agree with the comment by Constance here: why don’t Catholic women (apart from nuns) cover their heads all day if they make a big issue of doing so in church? Also, is it acceptable to wear a veil in a Church of England establishment? Some C of E are Anglican (semi Catholic) and others less so. This one confuses me a bit.
Does anyone remember the women with Kleenex on their heads? At the time this was required, men wore hats (that they took off in church). Now, neither men nor women tend to wear hats.
I do have to reply to the argument from nature: Men have long hair too! It is like arguing: Women have eyes, so they should wear sunglasses. But men shouldn’t. OTOH, not all Thomas Aquinas’s answers were great either.
I suspect, in Paul’s time, NOT wearing a veil was a political statement of some kind. If every woman was already wearing a veil, he wouldn’t have said a word. If there weren’t problems with the women who weren’t wearing veils, he wouldn’t have said anything. How much would you like to bet the women who didn’t wear veils were standing up, teaching their own brand of Christianity? Probably complaining about their husbands.
It is amazing that we always hear about the problems in the various churches that Paul’s teachings were meant to combat until it comes to something we women don’t like. Then it is an absolute attack on all women. In some letters, he gives high regard to women who appear to be doing exactly what he seems to condemn in other letters.
Custom is the strongest argument. If woman’s wearing a head covering again becomes a sign of respect in a church, I’ll wear one. Otherwise, I’ll stick with what I’m comfortable with. After all, when I’ve gone into mosques, I’ve always removed my shoes.
We all got stuck once in a while with no covering when rushing to make mass and the baby would vomit & need a complete change. Lol, any number of calamoties and someone would have to throw a hankie on her head. Good memory.
I’m a denominational fence-sitter when it comes to Christianity. I follow the Bible, but have found it difficult to find a ‘home’ in one denomination or another as I have found teachings and practices that don’t match what I read in the Bible. I am looking more and more at becoming Catholic as it seems to have kept closest to the original teachings and traditions. I was brought up Baptist and only recently discovered that my Bible missed out seveal books! I have felt drawn to the Catholic teachings as they appear to take a more literal view of the Bible and place less emphasis on personal interpretation, so I have been a little confused to discover that many Catholic women no longer consider veils to be neccessary. The arguments seem to be over social values and old vs modern traditions (which is how Baptist practices were explained to me when I was a child), but 1 Cor 11:10 makes it very very clear “That is why women ought to have a veil on her head, because of the angels”. I hear people arguing that this was simply tradition in Paul’s time or his opinion. The same argument could therefore be made of many other Christian traditions. Should we therefore start editing parts from the Bible that disagree with modern society or our own values? If veils are no longer a required biblical practice then what else can we ignore? Where do we draw the line? I think if there is any question over whether or not women should wear veils then it should be: ‘Is offending the angels less or more of a sin than potentially offending people in the modern church?’ Why would the angels be somehow less offended today?
For those women worried about drawing attention to themselves, perhaps it would do your congregation some good to be reminded of how they are to behave. Act as an example to others. Jesus didn’t try to blend in and annoyed many people when he came to earth, but that didn’t make his teachings and actions wrong. Again, are you more concerned about offending the angels and God or following modern society?
Also, I cannot find any reference to the Pope saying women are no longer required to wear veils. Could someone please provide a link for me?
It would be wonderful if you could contact Marcus Grodi of the EWTN
program “The Journey Home” who could help you learn more about
conversion to the Catholic Church (no obligation).
May God bless you and save you from unholy controversy, and bring
you the peace of Christ.
Peace be with you.
Keep up good work,nice article.
I have read the book from Colleen Hammond and left it on the side for sometime thinking this is not for me… but something tells me I must just do what pleases our Lord, not what one next to me thinks, that will be him or her , so I started wearing skirts and if the Holy Spirit wants I pray to give the strength to continue if this is what I must do , I always wore jeans and slacks….now I am curious and wanted to read about using a veil and I am reading all of your replies and to me is that I will just do what I think I am called to do and not look to what others do , what if the Saints only did what others did ??
Thank you Monsignor for this clarification 🙂
I’m sorry, all of you are flipping nuts. You women who wear veils in church are so embarrassing.
My Robin you seem to be such a charitable person. It is clear that God has really touched your heart with love and respect for others.
Msgr. Pope, you’re sarcasm is greatly appreciated! This article was well-written and presented the issue very clearly. As an Eastern Catholic in the US, it upsets me to see that my church is also losing this tradition so that we can “fit in” 🙁
Robin have you ever read 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 You could perhaps read it and prayerfully meditate on it….then see, how your comment fits with the way God wants us to love each other….”by your love they will know you are my disciples…” Love is patient….not rude…not arrogant and does not insist in its own way.
Who are they embarrassing? They obviously aren’t embarrassing themselves but maybe you are embarrassed? Why? I think if women want to wear a veil to mass they should. I was raised Baptist and am currently in the process of conversion to Catholicism. We wore dresses to church, always. I still wear dresses to church, always, because that’s what I’m comfortable in. Now, we have young ladies wearing shorts and flip flops. My parents would’ve considered that embarrassing. But I have learned and prayed that I do not concern myself with what others are wearing or doing. I concern myself with my salvation. And yes, I’m going to wear the veil because it’s what I want to do.
The word of God says for a Woman to cover her head and to submit to her husband. The church teaches that the scriptures are with out error. Thus not much more to talk about is there?
I agree, Travis, but this is a very difficult thing as a woman if you have not been exposed to a good husband. My husband has sexually exploited me over the 23 years we’ve been married and I have some emotional trauma involved…. he usually tells me, “You are supposed to submit to me in ALL things.”. So he uses coersion, guilt and exploitation of piety to have all the sex he wants.
So we are attending our first Latin Mass tomorrow and he insists I and our girls wear a veil. Honestly, if it weren’t for him, I would have no problem wearing the veil. But the pain and suffering his chauvanism has caused me over the years makes it harder to submit because I feel denegraded and humilitated by his insistence that I submit to him.
He’s not a very good husband.
I ask Mother Mary to show me what the veil means and to give me a greater understanding to submit, but I blame men like my husband for making this a struggle. A good husband would make a wife want to wear the veil all on her own with no promptings because his example would be that of Christ’s.
I recently started wearing a veil to mass. Not even four days later my husband got threatened by the parish priest….he told him that because he is the youth ministry coordinator, my choices have an impact on youth ministry. He claims , without even giving it a chance and with no proof just his opinion that the veil will scare away the youth. I had been trying to discern about wearing a veil for 7 years …..I always wanted to wear one. No political agendas, no church agendas, not about other people….simply I felt called from the bottom of my heart. My recent decision was not easy for me, because like many people, I struggle with vanity, pride….and maybe even a few insecurities etc. It took a lot of courage for me to wear the veil, but after I made that decision I felt great joy and peace. When I describe why the veil is important for me, I am simply talking about myself….my feelings….my testimony – I do not understand why some people take some of these comments as a criticism to them. For me it is an exercise of obedience to what I feel God is calling me to do, for me it is an exercise of modesty because I do it not to look more attractive or more beautiful but actually to forget my appearance and focus on the mass….on our Lord, to me it is a great opportunity to make reparation for my past sins that stemmed from my immodesty even in Church….and a reparation for all the offences that are done to our Lord today, in our parish at least, when it comes to modesty. The parish priest told my husband either my veil goes or he goes….I am heartbroken….how can this be happening in the Catholic Church? He said it is for old ladies, he said Paul encouraged it 2000 years ago, and I was basically ignorant for using it today. This is far from true – it took discernment and prayer and for me it was not an easy decision….it was a sacrifice, one I gladly decided to do because of my love for Jesus….and as always when we give up something in this case: my way, my will, my preferences….my pride….as always He gave me back more than I ever thought possible, full measure shaken down and overflowing. My husband is willing to lose his job over this…I no longer know what to do, I am deeply saddened and disappointed.
My heart weeps for you. I am so saddened that your obedience has caused such grief. I do believe that if your church is reprimanding obedience to Gods word, then your husband is right to prayerful consider a new position. As Paul told us, there is no argument on the matter of a woman covering her head. The only reason it was spoken only to the church in Corinth was because the other churches were walking in obedience and didn’t need the words. It is so very clear that we are called to wear a head covering, to argue this might say that anything Paul wrote does not apply to us in the 21st century…how absurd!. The Spirit allowed the verses to remain in the Bible to this date, thus saying, it is a command we should follow. You, obviously, did not make your decision lightly, but through prayer, were shown the Truth on the matter. Thank God that your husband, your head authority, agrees with you and supports you in your loving act. Blessings be upon your covered head!! I would love to hear an update on how this has carried out.
I attend our Sunday Latin mass here in Jacksonville, Florida and I do not wear a veil covering. My dear husband has commented to me about it. I am sincere when I say the veil has not impressed upon me one way or another. Perhaps I should talk with our priest. I attended Latin mass because my heart tells me and I value the sacredness of the mass. The time I spend at Sunday mass is important to me, the holiness of the time with Jesus, with the priest and with my fellow Catholic people. Without Sunday Latin Mass, I feel empty. Should I wear a veil covering? Something to think about and perhaps investigate further. Thank you.
I don’ believe it! This stuff would be worthy of Islam!!
OK. Leave it.
Since reverting to the Church, I’ve felt drawn to more traditional practices, and while I occasionally attend an EF Mass, that requires a 45 mile round trip commute. My own parish doesn’t offer one, though. So I’ve found myself at primarily OF Masses, that are celebrated reverently and thoughtfully, but where even the little old ladies don’t wear veils.
I had purchased a couple of mantillas, and was downright laughable with struggling to keep them from falling off, going askew, or draping over my face, Cousin Itt style (if you remember the TV show, the Addams Family.) This was all to attend the EF Mass. I finally did get the hang of it, and thought I would start to wear one to my OF Mass parish on the first Sunday of Advent. That day has arrived, and I’m chickening out. I’ll wear something on my head, but it’s going to be either a beret or a scarf.
Funny thing is, I’m a divorced Catholic, and have lived alone for many years. Other peoples’ opinions of me haven’t figured much into the equation most of my life. So I’m beginning to wonder just what the heck is wrong with me for letting a silly piece of lace become such a consuming obsession. Nobody is making me wear it or making me not wear it.
Anyone ever have this experience, and how did you overcome it so that you could pursue your call (veil or not) with peace and freedom?
This is beginning to drive me a little nutty. And it’s driving me even nuttier because it really is not a central part of spirituality. I’m fine with it at the EF, and feel weird about it at the OF. Makes absolutely no sense to me whatsoever.
Actually I have not read all of the responses yet …For about 9 r 10 yrs. now I have been researching this. Don’t know why because I am a post VII baby, had really no exposure to headcoverings.My husband is a convert.He was raised baptist. He changed when we were expecting our 2nd out of 7 children. Found it first in New test. in St. Paul’s letters. After more digging , found where it was church law before VII. When I would ask people everyone would say VII changed that….But after MUCH searching (because I didn’t want to wear one!!!) NOWHERE in VII documents can I find ANYTHING that says they “did away” with that. I started wearing it about 3 r 4 wks ago (my husband and older kids do still sit with me at Mass! lol) My 3 older girls r not wearing them yet…that is between them and God…(they have already confirmed and this is foreign to them) But my young daughters do wear it. It is a symbol of obedience and to remind us that man was made in the image and likeness of God, and we were made from man’s rib, (hence woman) of man. =) By the way, don’t know how i found this , I was online looking for a recipe!!! Lol!!! And it is pleasing to God. God forgive me for taking so long to try to please Him for fear of what family and friends would think!!! =(
This is a wonderful and informative site. Thank you. Veil your heart and then veil your head. Sacred Scripture tells us to do so. Code of Canon Law 1917 tells us to do so. Women began taking off their veil in the early 1960’s in direct violation to canon law and scripture which is long before Code of Canon Law 1983. So what happened? Look to the NOW organization. Read the book called, Slouching Towards Gomorrah, by Robert H. Bork, page 202 in the paper back. In part, it says, “Now is the time to fight back. No God, no master, no laws.” Could it be that radical feminism sparked the removal of the veil? When we came back to choir practice in the autums, our choir director told us to take off our veils. We did and never questioned it because she said to do that. Recently there seems to be a calling home to women to realize the holiness of wearing a veil in church. May it bear great fruit. Remember the Blessed Mother whose head is always veiled. Remember St. Veronica who gave her veil to Christ and he imprinted his face upon it. Remember wearing a veil in church is not for your friends, it is for Christ and His honor and glory and for what He did for you. When that comes from your heart, you will veil your head. Could it be with a change of the letters that not wearing the veil is evil? Food for thought. Blessed Lent to all.
On another site, someone says, “A woman who wears the veil on her heart accepts the place that God gives to women in the Church, the family, and society.” I totally agree. Of course, that place includes the Senate, a wide variety of paid jobs, various mountain tops, Wall Street, working in the Vatican as a theologian…
As for St. Paul, taking everything IN CONTEXT, the whole thing about “submitting” to husbands is in the midst of a discussion (along with James’) of also telling slaves to serve their masters well. I don’t approve of slavery, inside or outside of marriage, and I don’t see where the Church does, either. The main point of those passages is that people are supposed to treat each other decently and cooperate together, regardless of what their particular social roles happen to be. And, nowhere do I see anything that contradicts the equal dignity and free will of women.
I wear a chapel cap at Mass whenever I @($%& well feel called to. It has nothing whatsoever to do with “obeying” anyone but God. The color I choose is whatever goes best with that day’s hiking boots (although, Easter always gets the white one.) The only thing that bugs me about it is the possibility that some creepy, confused people who think women have to obey men might actually presume to approve of what I’m doing. I’m quite glad it’s all evolved into a choice, like any other devotional. I just wish everybody would leave the standard-setting to the Magisterium and the Parish, and stop studying everyone else’s behavior so intently when the liturgy is calling them to focus on God and their own souls. Honestly, the only item of apparal I noticed today at Mass was one woman’s pink sweater, and that’s only because it had terrific embroidery. I couldn’t tell you whether or not anyone had anything on their head.
In all comments, no one has presented any historical input concerning the REASON the church requires women to wear a head covering during Mass. Mega-coincidences, if they happen at all, are extremely rare, if there are 3 issues of coincidence then the odd’s are incalculable. 4 issues and there is no coincidence, there’s a reason. Opinion: Catholic, Jewish, and Muslim women are all required to wear a cover as well as some Orthodox and Evangelical’s. It’s one of many “Carry-Overs” from Judaism, a caste system reflecting social stratification. Crudely and in a nutshell – Men first, Women second. There is no other possible answer.
I suggest reading the scripture passage above, or open your own bible to 1 corinth, 11 and read. it say when a women prays that her head must be veiled. for to not do so means you disrespect God.
Our pastor (FSSP) once gave a sermon about the veil and made a point that I had not heard previously. He said that we veil things that are sacred, such as the chalice and the tabernacle. Woman is sacred because when a baby is conceived, God instills the soul in the baby. This intimate relationship with God makes Woman especially sacred.
That sure flies in the face of the feminist idea that a veil indicates some sort of inferiority.
Monsignor, thank you for this post. I am glad with prodding from the Holy Spirit that I have taken up the practice of head covering as I was born after the Vatican II Council. I use veils, scarves, chapel veils, hats, or mantillas at both forms of the Mass, and have done so for just over 2 years. I no longer care what others think of the practice and if so, I will simply point out 1st Corinthians 11 to them.
I do not currently veil but have been looking into it and would like to as soon as my husband to gets on board. This is how I understand the current Church “rule” on veiling. If I am missing something please let me know.
“For 2,000 years, Catholic women have veiled themselves before entering a church or any time they are in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament (e.g., during sick calls). It was written into the 1917 Code of Canon Law, Canon 1262, that women must cover their heads — “especially when they approach the holy table” (“mulieres autem, capite cooperto et modeste vestitae, maxime cum ad mensam Dominicam accedunt”) — but during the Second Vatican Council, Bugnini (the same Freemason who designed the Novus Ordo Mass) was asked by journalists if women would still have to cover their heads. His reply, perhaps innocently enough, was that the issue was not being discussed. The journalists (as journalists are wont to do with Church teaching) took his answer as a “no,” and printed their misinformation in newspapers all over the world. 1 Since then, many, if not most, Catholic women have lost the tradition.
After so many years of many women forgetting or positively repudiating the veil, clerics, not wanting to be confrontational or upset radical feminists, pretended the issue didn’t exist. When the 1983 Code of Canon Law was produced, veiling was simply not mentioned (not abrogated, mind you, but simply not mentioned). However, Canons 20-21 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law make clear that later Canon Law abrogates earlier Canon Law only when this is made explicit and that, in cases of doubt, the revocation of earlier law is not to be presumed; quite the opposite:
Canon 20 A later law abrogates or derogates from an earlier law, if it expressly so states, or if it is directly contrary to that law, or if it integrally reorders the whole subject matter of the earlier law. A universal law, however, does not derogate from a particular or from a special law, unless the law expressly provides otherwise.
Canon 21 In doubt, the revocation of a previous law is not presumed; rather, later laws are to be related to earlier ones and, as far as possible, harmonized with them.
Canons 27 and 28 add to the argument:
Canon 27 Custom is the best interpreter of laws.
Canon 28 Without prejudice to the provisions of can. 5, a custom, whether contrary to or apart from the law, is revoked by a contrary custom or law. But unless the law makes express mention of them, it does not revoke centennial or immemorial customs, nor does a universal law revoke particular customs. 2″
I was received into the Church in 2012. Right before I was received I felt compelled to wear a veil. I don’t really know where it came from. I have never attended Latin mass and I didn’t really know anyone who wore one. I thought about it, but I was uncomfortable with the idea of wearing one. I really didn’t want to draw attention to myself especially since I was received before a large crowd at the cathedral. I kept feeling compelled and out of the blue someone gave me her veil. I was told a friend from my class who would be wearing one so I wore it for my confirmation.
For the first year I only wore it at places other people had them. This did not include my local parish because they tend to be more liberal and I had some stares and a comment when I tried once.
About a year after I became Catholic I felt the Lord compelling me again. This time I felt compelled to wear it to every mass. I went to my priest. He says he is theologically liberal, so I was not really sure what his response would be. He said “That compelling…it’s a call” and he encouraged me pay attention to the call. I did.
I still find it awkward at times. I do it because God leads me to and it is part of my worship, but I know that there are people assume I want to stand out. I know that because I’ve had one priest accuse me of that when I tried to put it on in the confessional.
I’ve been told that I am not a typical veil wearer. I’m not sure what that means, but it seems that a lot of women are uncomfortable with the veil. I told one friend that it is like being set apart rather than being a place of subservience. I think that subservience is the idea many get when they hear the word submission. I think it means God calls us differently and there is an order to how he does things.
I pointed out to her that there was a veil over the tabernacle at the parish we were at. It doesn’t mean that Jesus is lesser or made weaker. It is as sign of both his glory and his humility. I’m sure over time and with more study I will understand it more. For me right now it is simple, I wear my veil because God asked me to and when I wear it I feel closer to him.
In Christ there is no male or female. To give this sexisy “custom” even one line of consideration is disgraceful.
The Jewish religion considered females second class citizens theologically – even pollutants to the extent that female menstruation was an unholy, offense condition.
The Roman Catholic church has been equally misogynistic towards women: from perpetuating the blasphemous literal misinterpretation of the birth of Jesus by “a virgin”, to Thomistic philosophizing that female embryos were damaged male ones, ultimately to invalidating the priestly ministry of women because they don’t have testicles.
There is no clearer manifestation of the evil of the “self referential” hierarchy Pope Francis speaks about than church laws which deny the core message of the Gospel: that God became flesh in all humans – male and female without distinction.
The distinction between man and woman is God-given. What means means is not that there is no distinction, but rather that all are of equal dignity. But men and women ARE different, that it patently obvious and is from the hand of God. Thus, there may be and ought be some distinctions about how they dress. That said, the veil is not a necessary component of that distinction in many cultures today and thus the Church universal does not require it. There are some local Churches however that insist on it for the sake of their custom.
All this doesn’t mean now…… We’re in another world now
I converted ten years ago to the Catholic faith. I too have been called to cover my head in church. My head will actually tingle or I feel a tapping on the top of my head which I believe is a physical reminder that I should do this. Rarely do I seen anyone covered in any of my local churches. I have covered my head with scarves, hats. It’s much easier in winter. I have not wished to stand out and one does feel as if people are looking and judging and it is a difficult sacrifice. I have recently began attending a church which offers the Extraordinary Form Mass. Almost all of the females have their heads covered. The altar rails have also been restored and the altar servers hold pattens and all receive on the tongue. In addition there is great modesty in how people dress and I have found that I feel greatly strengthened spiritually after attending Mass. When attending the ordinary form I found temptations harder to resist and that I had to go to communion more frequently as spiritually I felt weak and needed to go more often to be strengthened. After the Latin Mass I can go all week until the following Sunday and I don’t find temptations as hard to fight off. I feel so much stronger as if the graces received were more powerful and more abundant. Now I find it very difficult to go to the ordinary mass as I don’t see the same level of reverence for our Lord there and it grieves me.
Why is everyone ignoring the last verse? It is the conclusion. We have no such traditions, neither the churches of god…Paul perfectly clarifies this.You have ears but do not hear, eyes but do not see..
Remember when Jesus corrected the pharisees. They complained when the disciples didn’t wash their hands before eating. Saying the disciples were now unclean. Jesus answered and said unto them, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. Hobeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, and many other things ye do. that which enter into the belly does not enter the heart, but is purged. That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man. From within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts. Many times did Jesus correct the traditions of men. for instance divorce. you must discern between commandments, statutes, and ordinances. You cannot put new wine into old wine skins.
Dear Monsignor Pope:
Thank you. How well written. I was an altar boy in the pre-Vatican II era and fondly remember when nearly all women wore veils or hats to Holy Mass. How far we have come. (In the wrong direction).
Please let us not forget some additional symbolism of women wearing the veil, taught me by my wife, and by the Sisters of Mercy.
1) Identification with the dress style of the Blessed Virgin illustrates a parallel desire to not only dress like Her, but to act and live like Her.
2) Other things that are (or should be) veiled at Mass – the Tabernacle, the Chalice, the Altar. Veiled things are the most sacred, as is the treasure of femininity, that bore and nurtured the human body of our Christ, and the fertility, the womb, the vessel of life granted woman by God.
What a wonderful article! Thank you so much for taking the time to write and post this! I, too, feel called to veil- and I, too, am experiencing a lot of self-doubt as I have no interest in drawing attention to myself or standing out. But after reflecting on it, I’ve come to the conclusion that if my motives are pure (that is, based in reverence and humility) that I just need to get over myself. You so eloquently expressed this idea when you wrote “first veil the heart and then the head.”
If we are to live as true disciples of Christ, by virtue of our obedience to God, we will stand out from the world because the ways of the world are not holy and we are not to model ourselves after them. The Bible mentions this frequently. The true Christian path is not one of conformity. On the contrary, I think conforming to God’s will despite our own misgivings and insecurities is a valuable spiritual lesson. Holiness- something we’re all called to (not just the holier-than-thou crowd)- is not always comfortable.
One of the previous posts described the veil as a devotion, and I think that’s a beautiful way to put it. What is our faith worth if we’re only willing to exercise it within the boundaries of our personal comfort?
I have a question. I heard that in the 1983 code there is a statement that says things not addressed in this code are deferred to the prior code. If this is True wouldn’t head covering in church still be required.
no, I am unaware of any such statement. The previous code is abrogated. It is of historical interest but not juridical
Here are the citations. I don’t have a copy so I don’t know if these are accurate, but the writer claims they are.
Can. 21 of the new code: “In doubt, the revocation of a previous law is not presumed; rather, later laws are to be related to earlier ones, as far as possible, harmonized with them”
Can. 27: “Custom is the best interpreter of law.” It was a more than 2000 year custom.
I of course don’t know the context for myself. I wish there was a way to know. Because even if the 83 code stands by its silence, what about the 10 or more years ,when women stopped wearing the veil or I should say were told not to in many cases, before the 1983 canon. Wouldn’t that be against obedience.
I’ve wondered about this for years and when I saw your article I was hoping you could help.
Consider consulting a canon lawyer on this matter. I know that the law requiring women to veil is in desuetude. Any more than that you’ll have to ask a canon lawyer about.
In nigerian catholic chuches it is compulsory for a female to cover her head to church..most women do dis without knowing the reason and make a big deal wen a woman doesnt cover her head,it makes the idea of the veil or scarf repulsive to me.i have no problem with the covering of the head but they make it seem like a sin for a girl not to cover her head to church,unlike apostle paul i believe a firm decision should be made on the head cover issue if not women shouldnt be stoppped from entering the church or judged on their decision to or not to cover thier hair to church ….
Although this blog is regarding wearing a veil, and since the topic of women being submissive was brought up, here are my thoughts.
1. Until this morning, I have not worn a veil since I made my Holy Communion in 1965. I wear it today for two reasons. First, my mother is recently deceased and she wore her veil faithfully. She and I are of hispanic decent. It is my honor to wear her veil with respect to her, but more important, as you stated in your article, to veil my heart and then my head as my personal humility before God.
2. My St. Joseph New American bible states: Wives be “subordinate” not “submissive”. In my eyes, it is calling us to recognize that in every family there s a hierarchy… kind of like at a work place. The boss has people who are subordinate to him or her. It is not stating that we must be under the control of our husband which is what being “submissive” would imply. Colossians 3:18-4:1 continues to give directions to husbands, children,slaves and masters.
I’m in my first year of college and my roommate is a Catholic Christian. She surprised me in that when she prays before bed and when she goes to church she covers her head with a veil. I did not know that Christians did this, but I think it is wonderful.
Her veils are made of lace. She says they are called a mantilla, but that she is in the minority in her wearing, which is too bad, they are a wonderful form of modesty and humility.
I find it a bit spiritually amusing that I am replying to a blog about women covering their heads in Church since I only recently have taken up the custom again.
The first time I wore a head covering since the 1960’s, with the exception of my wedding day and visiting the churches in Rome, was at Mother Angelica’s Mass of the Resurrection. A month before Mother’s death, I was speaking in South Florida at one of our Women of Grace events. One of the beautiful daughters of God that came that day, the wife of Thomas K. Sullivan, Carol by name, took a seat in a pew in the back of the Church. On her head was a lace mantilla. Time and again my attention was drawn to how lovely she looked, how appropriate, and how utterly feminine in the best sense of the word.
After the event, I took this to my time of prayer and sensed there was a message for me in Carol’s unintentional witness. I knew the Holy Spirit was at work. And I made a decision that I, too, would go back to this beautiful custom.
One month later, Mother Angelica died and I was in Birmingham to celebrate her life and her legacy. A day or two prior to her funeral Mass, I went into the gift shop in Hanceville and purchased two chapel veils, one of which I wore inside the Shrine for her Mass, and I have continued to do so since, with the exception of twice when I forgot (old habits die hard!). It has been a blessing for me.
I have noticed in myself since wearing a head covering a deeper reverence before the Blessed Sacrament, a more conscious attitude of submission to God, and an interior acknowledgment of my sacred call and mission as His daughter. I have also noticed that my attire, modest to begin with, has become far less casual and more in keeping with the veil on my head. Simply stated, I am dressing up more when I attend Mass. All of which, I think, is attesting to a benefit experienced by this simple practice.
I would like to suggest one other reason for wearing a head covering. In addition to your excellent Argument for Humility, Father, it is interesting to consider that, as Gertrud von le Fort presents it in her book, “The Eternal Woman,” the veil represents something about metaphysical realities. In Sacred Scripture, that which is sacred is always covered by veils. The Holy of Holies in the Old Testament, for example, had four layers of veils. In our own Catholic churches, we see that this holy tradition has been passed down through the ages. Our Holy of Holies is the tabernacle within which resides the All Holy One, Jesus Christ, body, blood, soul, and divinity. The Blessed Sacrament is kept inside the tabernacle with its door locked except during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Inside the door are two veils behind which is the Eucharistic Presence of Our Lord, Who is often inside of a ciborium which itself is covered with a veil. Prior to Vatican Council II, even the exterior of the tabernacle was covered with a veil, a custom to which some churches still adhere.
Gertrud von le Fort makes the point that woman is a veiled creature, a reality her very physiology affirms. In her book “The Eternal Woman,” she contends that woman’s essential nature, her metaphysical truth if you will, is to be a “sign of the sacred.” To von le Fort, woman’s sacred sign , or symbol, attests to her capacity and tendency toward the spiritual. We have only to look at the sacred potential of her womb in which God Himself places an immortal soul into the union of sperm and egg to bring about an irrepeatable human person who will live for all eternity. As Alice von Hildebrand puts it, God touches the womb of woman.
This reality of woman’s physiology and potentiality, her “veiling,” however, has a profound spiritual relevance. It proclaims that her call, her mission, is to point man upward (and the entirety of the society of man as well), to affirm him and inspire him, to point him to that which is eternal and everlasting — to God Himself. To cover her head in the presence of God attests to her humility before Him but also to her metaphysical truth. It is, then, a type of admission of who she is before Him, and if you will, her “fiat” to be who she has been created to be. It is an act of holy surrender, like Our Lady’s, to say “yes” to God’s action in her and through her, to be a handmaid of the Lord.
In closing out this already too long comment, I want to suggest a couple of do’s and two don’ts for the ladies:
* Prayerfully consider the possibility of covering your head when going to Church. See if the Holy Spirit is prompting you. Check your motivations. If you feel called, do so. If not, no problem per the teaching of the Church. No guilt.
* If you are married, you may want to discuss this with your husband. See what he thinks. While it isn’t a radical move, it is one that may garner some questions or side-long glances. He may even have a gentleman or two approach him and ask what is up. He should know and he should be on-board.
* Select a veil that fits you well — and use something to secure it if need be. Otherwise you could be fiddling with it all through Mass — a distraction for you and everyone else around you.
* Don’t become an “elitist,” judging the moral and spiritual integrity of those who choose not to wear a veil. If you sense this happening, own up to it, go to confession, and strive to perform an act of charity for those whom you think are your spiritual inferiors ( a dreadful thought, but an all too human one). A smile, cheerful greeting, or nice comment might do well. You don’t want your act of humility to become a sin of pride.
* Don’t underestimate the power of your witness. It was Carol Sullivan’s quiet, humble witness that caused me to search deeper about how I was presenting myself to the Lord in His holy house. In living her metaphysical reality,she was an inspiration raising the hearts and minds of men (and at least one woman!) to the All Holy One. Indeed, she was a sign of the sacred.
* If you decide not to cover your head when in Church, please don’t dismiss Gertrud von le Fort’s unique philosophy about the metaphysical reality of woman. It tells you something about yourself, your feminine charism, and the authentic reality of who you are in the eyes of God.
Comments are closed.